On December 5th, over 40 Memphis high school students will present their business ideas at Pitch Night, a semi-annual showcase hosted by Let’s Innovate Through Education. These young innovators have been perfecting their business ventures as a part of LITE Memphis’ 16-week intensive. Now, finalists will sell their products and also pitch their businesses in vendor-style and stage pitch setups for a chance to win cash prizes.
LITE Memphis’ new executive director, Lakethia Glenn says that Pitch Night is the culmination of 16 weeks of hard work but only the beginning of support until age 25, including paid internships and business coaching. She believes that Memphis youth are brimming with innovative ideas that can move Memphis forward.
“They are ready. They are leaders. They are innovators,” said Glenn. “All we have to do is support their vision. Our students have been equipped with the skills they need to be competitive in the 21st-century job market.”
Glenn and LITE Memphis’ staff and team of volunteers work to equip students of color with 21st-century skills to create wealth. For 15-year-old finalist, Ketrick Ransfer, those skills are just what he needs to help him become his own boss.
“Since I was younger, I’ve always wanted to start my own business. I have always been a leader and not a follower. I don’t want to be the person who always has to clock in and clock out. I want to set the rules and set the foundation,” said Ransfer.
Preparing for Pitch Night has also helped finalists like 16-year-old high school juniors, Demi Pointer and Cindy Muang, see that entrepreneurship has both rewards and challenges and can come in many forms.
“It has definitely taught me the pros and cons of being in business. At first I thought entrepreneurship was just about starting a business and making a lot of money. But there is a lot of work that comes with it and I didn’t really understand that until LITE,” said Pointer.
At first, Muang wasn’t sold on the idea of entrepreneurship but LITE Memphis helped her find her voice as a social entrepreneur.
“I don’t really have to sell a product to be an entrepreneur,” said Muang. “My idea is a news organization. So, I’ve realized that I am interested [in entrepreneurship]. I’m excited to pursue it further.”
Glenn believes students like Ransfer, Pointer, Muang and the growing community of LITE Memphis alumni will drive the innovative projects that will help to close the wealth gap in Memphis.
“LITE Memphis’ goal is to ensure that students of color have marketable skills that will help them stimulate their local economy through business solutions,” said Glenn.
Ten students were selected as finalists via a public online voting process and will present their project ideas on stage during Pitch Night. Attendees and a panel of judges, including local leaders and entrepreneurs, will then select which ventures will receive thousands of dollars in additional funds on the big night. Pitch Night is sponsored by Nucor Steel of Memphis – Community Outreach and will kick-off at 5 PM in the Pipkin Building at Tiger Lane.
Pitch Night is $10 per person for advanced tickets and open to the public. Your tickets are more than just admission, the funds help future LITE students to launch ventures. To date, finalists’ ventures have generated over $180,000 in revenue.