2020-2021 YEAR IN REVIEW

VYEF programs are free to educators and high school students, empowering them with new entrepreneurial business skills.

Upcycle Enterprise

September-November 2020
Upcycle: Enterprise was available to educators as an online resource focused on inspiring innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and community action in young people grades 7-12. Whether learning from the classroom or at home, the program provided a lesson in social entrepreneurship through the use of videos and activities. Over 200 students participated in the on-demand program during the fall 2020 semester.

Upcycle: Enterprise is still available and can be accessed here: Upcycle: Enterprise

Upcycle Innovation Competition was an ideation challenge that was an extension of Upcycle: Enterprise offered to select schools. Fifty-two students submitted short videos to pitch the designs they created, presenting a vast array of creative ideas from a prototype for a sustainable stand for Covid masks to  solutions for increasing bee population. A panel of judges identified five finalists and the winner received a $250 Amazon gift card.

Thinkfest

November 2020 and April 2021
Thinkfest is a lively, interactive ideation workshop designed to inspire high school students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and to recognize, develop, and pitch business ideas.

The Fall session of Thinkfest took place on November 19, 2020 with 47 participants attending virtually from schools and homes.

The Spring session of Thinkfest was held on April 16, 2021 with 120 students participating virtually from schools and homes.

The workshops were steered and moderated by Dr. Jeffrey Stamp, creator of Baked! Lays Potato Chips, the Olive Garden breadstick, and many other well-known brands. Dr. Stamp is chief storyteller at Bold Thinking, LLC, where he leads a team of highly skilled thinkers in a 12,000 square foot creativity laboratory that provides ideation and concept development services to corporations and universities worldwide.

Continuous access to the program and curriculum can be found here: Thinkfest Video and Creative Exploration

VYEF John Carroll Thinkfest logo
stock market

Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge

December 2020
The Stock Market Challenge was held virtually on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020 and 245 students participated in this high energy event designed to simulate the excitement of a real-life trading floor.

Teams of 4 to 5 students were issued $1,000,000 of “mock stock” and had to buy and sell shares in fictitious companies throughout a simulated 60-day trading period. Trading was fast, fun, and furious with a new day starting every 60 seconds!

Prior to the challenge, over 500 students received the JA curriculum, completing five in-class lessons and were introduced to the importance of investing and saving, created team-building skills, and gained the knowledge to build a solid financial foundation for their future!

This program is hosted by JA of Greater Cleveland.

thinkBIG! Challenge

December 2020
Out of the 109 teams that submitted ventures to the thinkBIG! Challenge competition, 24 semifinalists had the opportunity to meet with start-up leaders in the community for a 1-1 executive coaching session to refine their business plan and develop a pitch to WOW the judges. The semifinalists then competed for the final four spots that would move on to the thinkBIG! Summit.

280 students, forming 109 teams submitted entries:
December 30, 2020

24 Semifinalists announced: January 11, 2021

Finalists’ Live Pitch: March 2, 2021

finalist logos

Upcycle Scrappy Hour

February 2021
Upcycle Parts Shop invited high school entrepreneurship educators to a virtual Scrappy Hour in February to get ideas on how to teach students to use upcycled materials for innovation, creativity, prototyping, etc. Participants were also offered a $20 credit to use at Upcycle Parts Shop to purchase supplies to outfit their class with needed materials and introduce students to Upcycle’s business model and approach. This session was tailored to each class’s interests and/or questions on innovation, entrepreneurship and the Upcycle business model. Over 20 educators attended live, watched the recording, and did direct one on one class meetings with the Upcycle team post event.

thinkBIG! Summit

March 2021

Click Here to Watch the 2021 thinkBIG! Summit Video

The culmination of the THINKBIG! Challenge was the THINKBIG! Summit which highlighted four teams, two from the small business track and two from innovation, competing for a total of $8,000 in prize money. The virtual 2021 thinkBIG! Summit was held on March 2nd with schools from all around Northeast Ohio joining in on a morning filled with new ideas and excitement. Students first heard from Justin Lafazan and his inspirational journey to becoming co-founder and co-CEO of Next Gen HQ, with the opportunity to ask Justin about his experience being a young founder and what is means to be an entrepreneur. The audience was then able to participate in challenges based on their current knowledge of the start-up community and discuss what skills they think is needed to become an entrepreneur.

The morning concluded with our finalists: Nature of Kindness and Second Chance from Hathaway Brown, S.E.N.S.E. from Columbus Academy, and Scaper from Bay High School pitching their ideas. The teams were joined by a panel of three judges who provided them with valuable feedback into next steps for their ventures. The panel included Lani Lazzari, President and CEO of Simple Sugars; Mai Moore, Founder and Executive Director of Empowering Youth Exploring Justice CLE; and Tayo Rockson, President and CEO of UYD Management.

With impressive presentations and innovative ventures from all teams, Nature of Kindness and S.E.N.S.E. took home the title as winners of the 2021 thinkBIG! Challenge! The dedication and curiosity behind each entry was incredible and we hope their entrepreneurial mindset will lead them into a successful future.

If you never give up, you become unstoppable in your pursuit. -Justin Lafazan, co-founder of NextGen Summit, 2021 thinkBIG! Summit Keynote Speaker

thinkBIG Summit March 2, 2021