Autumn Taylor, 18 and Ariana Drummond, 18 both of Crenshaw High School, placed second out of 600 L.A. students for their Groovy Smoothie idea in the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship / Merrill Lynch regional business competition, splitting the cash prize of $1250.
Beyond L.A. Taylor and Drummond were among the top 22 students who were chosen from 20,000 across the United States. Next, the two high school seniors are headed to New York to present their Groovy Smoothie business plan in a bid for first place in the nationals.
Top prize at the national competition is a $10,000 cash reward to be used to further their business plans or education goals.
“The smoothie shop was actually started by [former Crenshaw student] LaTisha Williams two years ago,” Drummond told the Sentinel.
“But it had been dormant for awhile and we revived it because we thought it would be a great business opportunity.”
The shop, which is run from the school’s cafeteria offers two flavors Peach Mango and Strawberry. The girls are leaving, making their own plans for the future but before they do, they’re making sure the next wave of NFTE students at Crenshaw are prepared to run the business.
“We have a team that we’ve trained how to make the smoothies and we do plan to come back some time after graduation and check on the shop’s progress,” they said.
With the knowledge she has taken from the program, Taylor plans to start her own record label after graduation and Drummond said she will major in public relations and business management.
“We’ve both been in the NFTE program for two years,” Drummond said.
“I’ve learned job skills, how to design a business plan and how to operate my own business, how to market and promote. I’m very thankful to the program for helping me out with that.”
“At Merrill Lynch, we want to inspire young people by giving them the opportunity to learn how to apply their academic skills to real world business and financial challenges,” said Greg Mech, Western Division Managing Director for Merrill Lynch.
“In NFTE, we have found the best partner to help young people learn business management and financial literacy skills, while developing other essential skills such as critical analysis and public speaking.”
The Merrill Lynch/NFTE business plan competition was created to inspire entrepreneurship and business ownership from an early age, said program organizers.
“It offers young entrepreneurs an opportunity to distinguish themselves as future business leaders, rewards their hard work, and exposes them to business professionals and government officials. By providing cash prizes to the winners, Merrill Lynch and NFTE are investing in the most innovative ideas among Los Angeles teens, and in their long-term success.”
Originally launched as a dropout prevention program, NFTE said its goal is to give young people the skills and confidence to seize their true potential and improve their lives and communities. Currently, there are NFTE programs in 18 local high schools and community-based organizations in Greater Los Angeles, which together reach more than 750 students annually. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard.
“NFTE gives students a way to get engaged in their education and see how it impacts their lives and communities,” said Phyllis Rawley, Executive Director, NFTE Los Angeles office. “Entrepreneurship also helps teachers find ways to give students real world examples of how education can change their lives...”