Chamber Foundation Awards Lansing Area High School Students $5,000 In Startup Funding

March 29, 2016

Twelve Lansing, Michigan area high school students were awarded $5,000 to launch their businesses this spring and summer after pitching their startup ideas to Michigan business leaders at an event hosted last week by the Michigan Chamber Foundation. Local businesses who participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Investor Panel included DBI Office Interiors, Granger, and Dean Transportation.

“The students really impressed the judges,” said Anita Lindsay, YEA! Program Manager. “Each student came prepared with their business plans, financial projections—even samples and prototypes—to earn their startup funds.”

Representing 10 new Lansing-area businesses, the students, aged 14-18 years old, had six minutes to pitch their plans for a share of the $5,000. Based on the appeal and merit of their presentations, judges allocated funds.

Forrest Gillespie, an East Lansing High School junior, won the top prize – and $875 in startup funds – for his new cottage candle maker business, Flames by Forest. Judges chose Gillespie’s business to advance to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Saunders Scholars National College Scholarship competition, where students will compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, a fast-track application pass to apply to be on ABC’s Shark Tank, and an all-expenses paid trip to attend America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, DC, courtesy of the US Chamber of Commerce.

Other student awardees include: 

  • Brandon Baswell, a Holt High School sophomore, won $100 for his new business, Beeper the Grounds Keeper;
  • Undra Brown, a Lansing Eastern junior, was awarded $500 for his new startup, OLE: Organized Language Exchange
  • Byron Gallagher, III, a Lansing Catholic junior, won $1,225 for his new business, The Clean Case (with proceeds going to help Flint residents);
  • Myles Johnson, a Lansing Sexton senior, was awarded $500 for his inspirational tie clips startup, I Am ___ ;
  • Nicole Matthews, a ninth grader from Lansing Nexus Academy, won $100 for Victory Backpacks
  • Richard Pelkey, an Okemos High School junior, was awarded $100 for his new startup, Clumsy Cleats
  • John Scrimger, a Lansing Catholic sophomore, won $750 for his new business, Jack’s Muffin Shack
  • Waverly High School seniors Anaiyah Brewer and Jasmine Jackson and Bath High School Senior Anastasia Vang were awarded $500 for their startup, 3:1 Glam; and
  • Fisher Welch, a Lansing Catholic sophomore, won $350 for his new business, PakPower

All 12 student awardees will showcase their new businesses to the public at a special event held at the Meridian Mall in Okemos on Saturday, April 23rd from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. 

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is the latest program of the Michigan Chamber Foundation and its efforts to support entrepreneurship and free enterprise. The program teaches high school students to “make a job, not just take a job” and networks them with local business leaders, entrepreneurs, and resources to give them a head start in business.  

Business leaders who participated as YEA investors and judges include: 

  • Kellie Dean, President & CEO, Dean Transportation
  • Keith Granger, CEO, Granger 
  • Tina Kozak, President, Franco Public Relations Group
  • Juliette Okotie-Eboh, Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs, MGM Grand Detroit
  • Kevin O’Malley, Shareholder, Butzel Long
  • Denise Peek, Executive Director, Entrepreneur Institute of Mid-Michigan
  • John Reurink, President/Publisher, MIRS 
  • Rich Studley, President & CEO, Michigan Chamber of Commerce

The Michigan Chamber Foundation was organized in 1985 as a 501(c)3 charitable foundation to plan and conduct nonpartisan public education programs; establish and operate a leadership institute to help current and future leaders make a positive impact on Michigan’s future; and conduct nonpartisan research and distribute policy studies on key business climate issues in Michigan.