Pittsburgh Area Teen Entrepreneurs Shine at Pitch Competition

LaMonica Wiggins in a gray top

Five area teenagers came up winners in The Lunchroom Social Innovation Competition, a new eight-week program for young people developed by Pitt entrepreneurship librarian LaMonica Wiggins (pictured) and the nonprofit School 2 Career, a program of the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

Wiggins created the innovation pitch competition to teach students the basic business skills needed to launch a social or tech-based venture. A Hill District Community Engagement Center STEAM Studio Team Project seed grant provided the funding.

Lunchroom participants met weekly with Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs and practitioners to learn about business planning, customer discovery, pitching, product creation and the nuances of starting a social enterprise. Guest speakers included Pitt alum Samir Lakhani of Eco-Soap Bank, John Cordier of Epistemix and mentors from Pitt’s Small Business Development Center and Open Lab. In March, seven students pitched their start-up plans to a panel of judges and five of them were awarded cash prizes for the following:

Grand prize: Pittsburgh Westinghouse senior Ry’Nique Durham for her idea of an app for teens who have juvenile diabetes to find support groups, recipes, and area restaurants and stores that stock sugar-free treats.

First runner-up: Provident Charter School seventh-grader Jazmiere Bates for her business that sells custom apparel for house pets to raise money for local pet food drives.

Second runner-up: Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice senior Tomi Taiwo for her idea of custom-made kits of sustainable products, such as LED bulbs and plant-based trash bags, delivered to Black women ages 25 to 50.

Third runner-up: Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy sophomore Rae’Nell Durham for her idea for a nonprofit that connects teens of color suffering from anxiety and depression with therapists of color.

Honorable mention: Pittsburgh Milliones freshman Trinidy Manison for her face masks fitted with a silicone filter that holds the cloth away from the face to assist those with respiratory problems.