MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There is a big competition for some local students this week, and if they get it right, they could get a jump start to starting their own business.
Sixteen-year-old Taryn Eddie is an entrepreneur in the making, using her love of animals to start her own business solving a problem most dog owners know plenty about.
"My dog has really bad breath, so coming up with a method to help it was available and I thought was a good idea," says Taryn.
She came up with organic, gluten-free dog treats that she makes at home, which sets her product apart from others.
"Most of them are manufactured. They are not homemade so I thought those were unique values that would make me different and set me apart," she says.
Now she is hoping to sell others on her big idea. She will get a chance when she and 34 other students pitch their business ideas to potential investors Thursday at Rhodes College.
It's a part of the LITE — or, Let's Innovate Through Education — semi-annual Pitch Night. Since August, students from across the city have spent months learning how to start a business and working with mentors.
"They figure out tactics to use toward their business plan. Who is my target audience? How can I reach them? How can I market my product? How can I package my product? " says Alexandra Thompson, LITE Outreach Coordinator.
WREG highlighted the LITE approach earlier this year, showing how it gave African-American and Hispanic children an opportunity to learn business skills.
Memphis LITE was one of only five out of 400 programs around the country recently selected for the $20,000 Renewal Project Award. That money will allow them to offer LITE to even more students.
"That's another 20 students we can support because each student in our program gets up to $1,000 to launch their idea," says Thompson.
Now the latest group of students hope to land investors for their business.
"It's not just great practice learning how to communicate your business idea to potential investors. It is also great public speaking experience," says Thompson.
Ezekiel Ramirez used his computer skills to build a customized computer designing business.
"It's a good way to like help others find a more affordable PC that fits their needs and also what their wants are," says Ramirez.
At pitch night, it's making others believe in his business called TailoredTech, a company that works to build "a more personal connection for a more personalized" personal computer, Ramirez said.
"We want our students to be leaders in Memphis after they graduate from college. We want some of them to become entrepreneurs, create innovative solutions and employ people in the city," says Thompson.
At Pitch Night, 2 students will be chosen to get additional funding for their business. But more than that, these students will have gotten valuable knowledge that can last a lifetime.
"Things that I wouldn't learn in school, I am learning here," says Taryn Eddie.
Forbes Magazine named LITE one of the 20 ideas that can change the world.
LITE's Pitch Night at Rhodes College is Thursday evening starting at 5:30 in the McCallum Ball Room.