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LTU, Detroit Church Launch Youth Business Pitch Contest
Michigan Ag Connection - 01/11/2019

Lawrence Technological University has partnered with Detroit's Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to launch what's believed to be the first business pitch competition of its kind -- one targeting youth at faith-based organizations.

Up to 10 Southeast Michigan faith-based organizations will be accepted into the competition, each entering a team of up to five high-school-age youth to compete for prizes by pitching a business idea to a Shark Tank style panel of judges. The faith-based organizations are responsible for selecting the youth from their congregations who will participate.

Pitches will be made in front of a live audience of community members, professionals, investors, and university faculty on Thursday, March 7, on the Southfield campus of LTU. Winning teams will receive cash prizes, LTU scholarships, and free business assistance services.

To prepare for the competition, youth teams will participate in a boot camp consisting of four Saturday workshops that begin Feb. 2 at Tabernacle Church, 2080 W. Grand Boulevard. The workshops will be conducted by faculty of the LTU College of Business and Information Technology -- Matthew Cole, associate professor, and Jacqueline Stavros, professor -- with assistance from Sibrina Collins, executive director of LTU's Marburger STEM Center. The workshops will guide the youth teams through the development of a business idea, business plan elements, and pitch techniques. The youth teams will also be provided with mentors and have homework assignments. The day after the pitch competition, participating teams will visit local organizations that support entrepreneurs to increase their awareness of available resources.

Participation is free for teams, and workshop laptops, materials, and meals will be provided. For more information, contact Ross Sanders, Lawrence Tech corporate partnerships manager, at rsanders1@ltu.edu.

The initiative is funded by the New Economy Initiative in an effort to spread awareness of entrepreneurship among area youth.

"Entrepreneurship experiences are especially important for today's youth, as they instill key leadership skills, including working in teams, solving problems, strategizing, and presenting," said Maria LaLonde, senior program officer at NEI.

The initiative also aligns with the objectives of faith-based organizations, which are seeking to instill leadership skills within their youth and develop their local communities.

"We are extremely excited to see the impact this ground breaking initiative could have on our youth," said Shanika Coach, Tabernacle Church's participation coordinator. Added Steven Clarke, the church's youth and young adult initiative coordinator: "The initiative could also lead to some interesting possibilities, including the development of more advanced programs, the creation of youth entrepreneurship ministries, and collaborations with local schools."

Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church has been a long-standing member of Detroit's faith-based community, dating back to 1920. It started with a small group people who moved from Cordele, Ga., and grew to a congregation of several thousand. It maintains a youth ministry of more than 100 members. The church is led by Pastor Nathan Johnson, who has 37 years of ministry service and 32 years of serving as a pastor. Its location on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit includes a sanctuary, banquet halls, meeting rooms, and a full service kitchen.

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) is a philanthropic collaboration that is building an inclusive network of support for entrepreneurs in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Since 2007, NEI's funders have contributed a total of $159 million to the effort, which is housed within the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. For more information, visit http://neweconomyinitiative.org/.

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