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District students win $10,000 to continue developing their ideas

May 6, 2021

Janet Liu and Melina Liu, both Palm Harbor University High sophomores, won first place in the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Next Generation Entrepreneurs competition. As result, the two will receive $5,000 to continue developing their idea. The announcement was made Wednesday, May 5, during a virtual awards ceremony.

Elise Tong, a Largo High sophomore, won second place and $3,500. Dean Mucaj, a Palm Harbor University High sophomore, won third place and $1,500.

Fifteen teams, consisting of one to four members participated in this year’s Next Generation Entrepreneurs competition. The teams were from Gibbs, Dunedin, Richard O. Jacobson, Largo, Palm Harbor University, East Lake and Clearwater high schools.

In March, the teams were partnered with a community business and technology mentor who introduced them to entrepreneurship, creating business plans, and pitching to investors. The students took on roles such as project manager, business analyst and software developer to build a business model and working prototype. After four virtual workshops,  the teams presented a business plan and pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

Janet Liu and Melina Liu’s winning pitch was named Sunrizon Economics, a nonprofit organization that develops programs that spark interest and promote knowledge of economics among elementary, middle, and high school students. Elise Tong’s entry, Yurnu, is a nougat that is largely unknown in the United States, yet it is a far healthier choice than many available snacks. Tong wants to introduce the highly customizable and health-conscious option to a new market.

Dean Mucaj’s third place winner is dubbed Helderly, an Uber-style phone app that connects the elderly with home caregivers that can assist with cooking, shopping, and a variety of basic housework to help keep people living independently.

Next Generation Entrepreneurs winners