Building blocks for young entrepreneurs

Published: June 17, 2013

MIT Sloan alumnus mentors high school students in business plan competition

The teenage members of Lite UpThe teenage members of Lite Up, a clean energy company, visit the MIT Sloan campus to prepare for the Youth Business Plan Competition

Entrepreneurs from MIT and MIT Sloan have a proud tradition of volunteering their time to support students in the development of new companies. Daniel Siegel, MBA ’12, jumped at the opportunity to become part of that tradition by participating in a program designed to provide underserved young people with the same kind of mentorship he has received as part of the MIT community.

Siegel mentored a young team of entrepreneurs competing in the second annual Youth Business Plan Competition sponsored by the non-profit BUILD, an organization focused on bringing the fundamentals of entrepreneurship to low-income high school students through classes at partner schools. The event, held on June 1, was the culmination of a year of hard work by BUILD students and their mentors. Teams presented their innovative business ideas and prototypes during two rounds of competition, and winners received startup funds to launch their businesses.

“I did not have this kind of exposure [to entrepreneurship] in high school,” said Siegel. “To think that even in ninth grade that they are thinking of things like a business plan and how to present in a competition—they are going to be so ahead of the pack compared to other people who wake up and think they want to be an entrepreneur after they graduate college and haven’t gone through a course like this.”

Siegel mentored Lite Up, a clean energy company that enables users to charge cell phones through a device using solar power technology. The team included four ninth graders at the Community Academy of Science and Health in Dorchester, MA: Sarah Saint-Soth, CEO; Satura King, vice president of manufacturing and design; Angelica Fernandez, chief financial officer and chief operating officer; Daquan Beltre-Jeffery, vice president of marketing and sales. Shannon Hawkins, a digital marketing specialist with iProspect, also helped mentor the team.

Before the business plan competition, Siegel gave Lite Up a taste of the MIT startup experience by bringing students to campus to practice for the event in one of the workspaces at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

“The experience of being at MIT was really fun,” said Saint-Soth. “I got to see new things and experience new things, like being in a small office with your team and hearing each other out.”

A team of classmates from the same school took home the grand prize, but Lite Up did not leave empty handed. They won recognition in the “Eco-friendly Product” category and walked away with great experience.

“I have never been into stuff like this,” said Fernandez. “I was always into my softball and my veterinarian [activities] because I would like to be a veterinarian when I grow up, so this was a great experience for me. And I kind of want to be entrepreneurial when I grow up.”