After months of creating business plans, students at the Howard School and Tyner Academy have moved three businesses a step closer to becoming a reality.
Student teams originally were competing for a single prize -- $10,000 in startup money and services -- but the judges of LAUNCH's High School Entrepreneurship competition were so impressed, they offered two additional prizes Sunday night. The judges were members of the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund.
Juniors Colby McCurty and Deosha King received the $10,000 prize, which will go to funding Grab N Go, vending machines that will stock school supplies for students in high schools and colleges.
The girls hope to begin the business over the summer and already have gained permission to place the first machine in Tyner Academy.
"We would like for Grab N Go to be the future and the solution for students that need school supplies," McCurty said.
Stephen Culp, founder of Smart Furniture and delegator.com and one of the judges, said the decision to bestow two more prizes was a testament to the students and their ideas.
"Really, the reason is the strength of this group," he said.
Winston Clay, Antonio Woodall and Deshun Wilson were given an invitation to The Company Lab's 48-hour business launch to work on developing their business, Comfort Box. The product is a box that warms clothes more safely and easily than a dryer or towel warmer.
And in honor of many students working on businesses that would give back to the community, Deshel Hambrick was given $1,000 to start 4ever Young Thrift Store, a clothing store that would be operated within and give its proceeds to the Howard School. Hambrick also may receive $1,000 for each extra school to which she expands, with a maximum of $5,000.
Many of the students' ideas came from needs in the city, said Hal Bowling, co-founder of LAUNCH, which promotes entrepreneurealism in areas of Chattanooga with low income and high unemployment.
"The main idea is engaging students in entrepreneurship," he said. "It lets them know, in a bad economy without jobs, they could earn a living, and it could change things for them."
LAUNCH works with students over a semester to develop business plans. This is the second time the competition has been held, and the first time it featured competition between two schools. Bowling said the program will expand to four schools next fall.
"For students, it's something they can sink their teeth into and get behind," he said. "Business teaches them real world skills."