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Student business plans out of North Philly, Bustleton take NFTE honors

It's never too soon to start your own business. Two Philadelphia high school students have won a business plan competition hosted by the Philadelphia chapter of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Bianca Nieves, a senior at Esperanza Academy in North Philadelphia, won for a business based on her grandmother's Hispanic spice recipe, called Grandma's Secret.

Viktor Vabishevich, a junior at George Washington High School was the runner-up for Vito Lawns, a landscaping business that's already quite successful. Based in the Somerton section of Northeast Philadelphia, Viktor reports he takes care of around 40 neighbors' lawns after school and has made enough money to purchase two cars, while saving up for college.

Philadelphia NFTE serves over 1,500 students in 20 area schools. "These kids are coming from environments where they don't have the luxury of spending time with video games," says Sylvia Watts McKinney, Executive Director of NFTE Philadelphia. "These are kids with innately good business acumen, and they're put before a group of people who encourage them to take advantage of that talent."

NFTE's mentoring program runs throughout the entire school year, bringing dozens of area business leaders to high school students. McKinney reports that over 60 volunteers and judges participate. "Not only do we go to schools and teach them, but there are also opportunities throughout the year to meet entrepreneurs at Drexel and Community College of Philadelphia, helping students to build a resume, and teaching them how to get a job. We have coaches at Wharton and Temple." By bringing students to college campuses, says McKinney, the NFTE program demystifies the academic experience for kids who may be the first in their families to go to college.

McKinney reports that this year's business plan presentations were quite sophisticated, and in many cases could go head to head in competitions with adults. Vabishevich, who received a check for $1,000, and Nieves, who was awarded $1,500, will now advance to the national competition, held this fall in New York City.

Source: Sylvia Watts McKinney, NFTE; Viktor Vabishevich, Vito Lawns
Writer: Sue Spolan
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