YES Competition Recognizes Top Student Entrepreneurs

YES Competition Recognizes Top Student Entrepreneurs
Team members of the Sugar Sweets team: (from left) Rachel Reynolds, Alli Swatsenbarg and Shelby Whitehurst.

Student entrepreneurs from across the state converged on Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock Friday to show their wares and compete for cash and prizes.

The 2016 Youth Entrepreur Showcase brought together the top 25 student teams, representing kids in grades 5-8, for the competition's Expo Day.

More than 200 teams submitted business plans for the competition and the top 25 were brought to Little Rock to set up retail booths in the mall displaying their goods and services. The finalists were selected from the business plans they submitted last fall. Students formed "businesses" around the plans they submitted.

Winners were announced in the following categories: best business plan, best retail booth, best marketing plan and best innovation, and the top four in each category received cash, medals and trophies made from the 3-D printers at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Winning team members took home $100 in cash and a medal, and their advisers received $500 in cash. 

The winners:

Best business plan

  1. Stresslets, Forest Heights STEM Academy, Little Rock (students Allison Farrar and Courtney Ann Satterfield and teacher Gwendolynn Combs)
  2. Sugar Sweets Sugar Scrubs, Omaha (Boone County) Public Schools
  3. Hook-A-Balm, Washington Middle School, El Dorado
  4. Robot Cafe, Prairie Grove Middle School

Best retail booth

  1. Sugar Sweets Sugar Scrubs (students Rachel Reynolds, Alli Swatsenbarg and Shelby Whitehurst and teacher Pam Hopkins)
  2. HAMMA Headbandz, Southwest Middle School, Searcy
  3. L's Designs, Christ the King Catholic School, Little Rock
  4. Flash Brush, Southwest Middle School, Searcy

Best marketing plan

  1. Ribbon Wrapz, Carlisle Elementary School (student Corbin Brown and teacher Jennifer Park)
  2. Sugar Sweets Sugar Scrubs
  3. Paperings, Forest Heights STEM Academy, Little Rock
  4. HAAMA Headbandz

Most innovative

  1. The Repurposed Project, Pulaski Heights Middle School, Little Rock (students Hannah Denery, Skylar Blount; Jasmyn Stuggers, Canaan Davis and Ruby Starks and teacher Holli Wolfe)
  2. Robot Cafe
  3. The Quizzicals, Prairie Grove Middle School
  4. HAMMA Headbandz

The winners included a "stress bracelet" made from sheets of rubber and designed to replace stress balls (Stresslets); an organic skin moisturizer (Sugar Sweets); clasped, homemade bookmarks made of ribbon that wrap around books (Ribbon Wrapz); and a business plan that took discarded vinyl records from the school library and turned them into clocks (Repurposed Project).

Other "businesses" included homemade, felt headbands with slots for hand warmers (HAMMA Headbandz); organic toothpaste (Tasty Paste from Lonoke Elementary School); a video game that recreates classic strories from literature (Robot Cafe); and CDs that offer 25 study questions for Quiz Bowl students written by students (Quizzicals). 

The YES competition is a project of Arkansas Capital Corporation's Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation. In addition to the middle school competition, the organization puts on similar competitions for high school students (YES 2.0) and college students (Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup).

ACC President Sam Walls III presented the awards on Friday afternoon and told the student entrepreneurs to keep asking if there was anything in the world they could do or make better.

"We've been doing this for 11 years, and the plans just keep getting better," he said. "It's really inspiring to come see these kids. There's definitely optimism for the direction of our country seeing kids like this."

Pam Hopkins, who advised the Sugar Sweets kids from Omaha, said her students — one sixth grader and two fifth graders — already have plans to expand their product line and sell their wares and craft shows, and they may even have a shop in Branson lined up. 

"This group really did its research and knew the product," she said. "It was something they believed in. This is their heart and soul."

Hopkins said the group stressed the "four C's": collaboration, communication, creativity and credible thinking.

Sixth-grader Alli Swatsenbarg, the team's "CEO" and a YES competition veteran, added one more C. "We were pretty confident," she said.