More than 100 teens from high schools across L.A. displayed their entrepreneurial expertise—skills honed with help from the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Anderson MBA student mentors—in Project ECHO’s 9th annual business competition on Sunday, April 7, at UCLA Anderson. Vying for cash prizes to fund their business concepts were 20 teams, including finalists from a preliminary round held last month for 43 teams from Long Beach Polytechnic High School. The top winner walked away with a $1,200 award. An impressive group of successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporate officers, and other business professionals served as volunteer judges.
Project ECHO (Entrepreneurial Concepts Hands On) is an L.A.-based nonprofit that gives high school students, especially those from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, opportunities to succeed in new ways. This year’s program launched with a two-day intensive business boot camp at UCLA Anderson, with industry experts leading workshops on subjects like generating innovative business concepts, making presentations to potential investors, and business accounting and management.
Project ECHO is one of the beneficiaries of Challenge for Charity, in which Anderson students compete with peers at top business schools for the coveted Golden Briefcase by raising funds and contributing volunteer hours to socially conscious organizations. Anderson student mentors worked with their Project ECHO teens for 12 weeks under the leadership of second-year MBA student Philip Hofman.
“MBAs are able to leverage the skills they have learned at Anderson … to help prepare students and provoke them to think about issues in new ways,” said Hofman, adding that the mentors “act as role models and encourage students through their continued dedication throughout the year.”
Taking the competition’s top prize, from Long Beach Poly, was Ripped, a restaurant concept that plans to serve healthy fast food for athletes and others committed to nutritious eating. Among other winners were Nocturnal, a drug-and-alcohol-free nightclub for teens in south L.A.; Design-n-Cut!, a customized clothing company at Santa Barbara High; and Bait Studios, an in-house photo studio at Canoga Park High.
Project ECHO executive director Yinyin Goh (’97 Anderson FEMBA) said the program provides teens with tools for across-the-board success.
“The beauty of it is that teaching business and entrepreneurship touches on so many other areas,” said Goh. “It teaches teens math skills, writing skills, teamwork, presentation skills—things that they will find useful whatever field they choose to go into.”
Courtesy Project ECHO