McKeesport students win Business Plan Competition

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Can you imagine getting dressed in the dark every day? How would you look? How would others perceive you? How self-conscious would you feel? With over 10,000,000 Americans suffering from colorblindness, getting dressed in the dark is a reality.

That was part of the 30-second pitch that helped Keena Simmons and Ryah Gadson from McKeesport Area High School win $2,000 in seed capital for their businesses, “Made For The Shade,” in the fifth annual George W. Tippins Annual Business Plan Competition.

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BUSINESS?PLAN?COMPETITION WINNERS—First place winners Ryah Gadson and Keena Simmons, center, hold the check, with family and Jackie Dixon, right.

Their business helps those who are colorblind by enabling them to dress themselves. Their product is a durable iron on tag that is uniquely designed to indicate primary color clothing. The product allows those diagnosed with colorblindness to easily color coordinate their clothes.

“We’re delighted that our daughter and her business partner, Keena Simmons, received the first place award in the Youth Entrepreneurship competition,” says proud mom, Trish Gadson. “Although they both were filled with such passion and excitement about the process and their idea, we were surprised by the amount and depth of research they conducted.”

Her husband, Corey, adds, “We’re proud of the standard they have set as young women and especially for our McKeesport community. Competition fuels Ryah’s spirit of achievement, which is why she is successful student-athlete. She loves to win on the basketball court and in the classroom. We fully expect the momentum from this accomplishment to carry Ryah into her freshman year as a matriculating student at California University of PA and as a new member of the Lady Vulcan’s Women’s Basketball Team.”

Simmons and Gadson, along with Chrissy Plavko from East Allegheny High School, Chrissy’s Pretzels, and Kristen Popp from McKeesport Area High School, K Popp Pitching Camp; were the three finalists in the competition and presented their business ideas to a panel of judges comprised of local business leaders on June 2.

“This experience was one of the most beneficial encounters that I will take and use in the indefinite time yet to come,” says Plavko, who took third place in the competition.

Entrepreneuring Youth, which sponsors the annual competition, directs resources to engage and benefit young people at risk of failing academically and for whom career paths and opportunities for success seem extrem­ely limited.

“The learning and growth occurring among these competitors and the other young students reached by our current programs demonstrates one important fact: immersing young people in the real world experience of business creation can fire up their imaginations and propel them to discover just how capable they are,” said Jerry M. Cozewith, president of Entre­pre­neuring Youth. “It also instills entre­pre­neurial initiatives to help them explore new pathways for pursing a life of personal and economic security. That is why it is vital for our community to expand their investments of time as volunteer coaches and funding to engage even more youth, especially those living in economically-fragile neighborhoods.”

The annual competition is a showcase for students, from grades 9-12, to demonstrate their business ideas and talents. The program is underwritten by the Tippins Foundation and named in honor of one of Pittsburgh’s most successful entrepre­neurs, inventors and financiers of the latter half of the 20th century. The competition provides students with real life experience in business creation so young people acquire knowledge and skills essential for academic success, economic security, and fulfilling their aspirations.

Entrepreneuring Youth, a 501C 3 nonprofit educational and entrepreneurial experience program was founded in Pittsburgh by former NFTE volunteer and staff leaders, launched Sept. 1, 2009.

Entrepre­neur­ing Youth is the successor organization to the Pittsburgh Program Office of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The office engaged more than 7,500 youths since opening in 1994 with support from the region’s leading foundations, and philanthropically responsible companies and individuals.

(For more information, visit http://www.eyouthamerica.org or contact Jerry Cozewith at 412-456-4169.)

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