Memphis teen wins ArtUp business pitch contest

On July 20, local organization ArtUp announced the winner of its elevator pitch contest winner for their first DreamUp Youth Incubator.

Twenty Shelby County Schools and private school students developed their own pitches for an arts or creative-based business as part of the three-week DreamUp virtual bootcamp.

ArtUp developed the DreamUp incubator for young people with entrepreneurial spirits in response to the shortage of employment opportunities in the coronavirus pandemic, particularly for Black teens.

Kynnidi Caffey took first place in the pitch competition and won $500 for her 60-second presentation outlining her vision for a custom t-shirt company called “Fits Us!” The 18 year-old is a graduate of Briarcrest Christian School.

Caffey’s vision for her clothing company is to “provide a plethora of fun and empowering clothing options in all sizes.”

She’ll now join ArtUp founder and Harvard University alum Linda Steele as a guest presenter at the Harvard Summer School.

“I think this program should be made available year-round,” said Caffey in an ArtUp press release. “I learned and gained invaluable information from this program that I will utilize throughout my academic and personal life!”

All of the course's budding entrepreneurs were paid for their participation through ArtUp’s partnership with the City of Memphis Youth Services Division.

The student entrepreneurs attended virtual classes and addressed topics like the entrepreneurial mindset, the design thinking process, and how to create a pitch deck. ArtUp said they also came away with leadership, public speaking skills, and newfound confidence.

The classes were led by undergraduates from the Harvard University Women in Business club.

“I loved seeing the growth of each student from the beginning to the end of the incubator,” said class leader Aurelia Han. “Each student also had such different business ideas but seeing them help one another to grow their ideas was awesome.”

Han attends Harvard College and is herself an entrepreneur. She co-founded Cade’s Cakes, which is based in Dallas and New York.

Dr. Angela Hargrave attended the student presentations at the end of the program. Hargrave is executive director of student equity, enrollment & discipline for Shelby County Schools

“Even more important than the ideas that the students presented was the growth that I saw in their confidence and the spirit of accomplishment,” she said. “This is a phenomenal program that can change the trajectory of our students’ lives.”

Students also received copies of “Mo's Bows: A Young Person's Guide to Start-Up Success” by Memphian Moziah Bridges. Bridges launched Mo’s Bows at just nine years old and graduated high school this year. His business is now an internationally-recognized brand featured in Time Magazine, Forbes, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Related: “Moziah Bridges talks bow ties, books and plans post-high school”

The “Dreamers” in the incubator were also inspired by sisters Madison Star and Mallory Iyana. The preteen entrepreneurs are also from Memphis and launched a skincare line, Angels & Tomboys, which was featured on season 8 of MSNBC’s Shark Tank.

Related: “All in the family: Sisters open side-by-side shops on Summer Avenue”
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