Pitch contest gives teenagers real-world business experience

 
A pitch contest for Cleveland teenagers aims to prove you're never too young to gain real-world business experiences.
 
Teen Pitch Tank, a program of the Young Entrepreneur Institute (YEI) at University School, invites high school students to produce an elevator pitch on the business, service, nonprofit or product of their choice, with winners receiving a four-year college scholarship and other prizes. The deadline date for entries is Oct. 16.

YEI will narrow the field to 20 finalists, while a panel of judges and a public vote is tasked with cutting that figure to five. Each winner gets a tablet device, $150 in cash, a year's supply of Coca-Cola beverages, and a scholarship to Cleveland State University's Ahuja School of Business.
 
Any grade nine - 12 student residing in 21 northeast Ohio counties is contest eligible, notes YEI director Greg Malkin.
 
Greg Malkin of YEINow in its second year, Teen Pitch Tank does not require a business plan or prototype. Merely creating a business pitch teaches critical thinking and public speaking proficiencies students can use for a future job or college interview.
 
"Persuasively presenting an idea in 60 seconds is a life skill," says Malkin. "We provide workshops and curriculum for schools that will help kids put together their elevator pitches."
 
In general, enthusiasm and a polished presentation make for the best pitches, adds the program director.
 
"The purpose is to make people curious and then be quiet," Malkin says. "You want people engaging with your idea."
 
While proposals are only limited to the imagination, an idea must have a realistic application, meaning time machines and other fantastical notions are not accepted.
 
"The ideation process is a big part of it," says Malkin. "One student is really into cheeseburgers, so he came up with an idea for a cheeseburger restaurant. We want students to realize they can make a career out of their passion."
 
In addition to prizes, winners will present their pitches at Enspire 2016, a November conference for entrepreneur educators and program directors. Though not part of the YEI contest, the event is another means to expose students to a competitive business ecosystem. Ultimately, the competition prepares contestants for all manner of employment-related situations, proponents say.
 
"You never know when you have an opportunity to make a pitch, like at a party and someone asks you about your job," says Malkin. "The contest is readying students for many different situations." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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