Nonprofit helping create new generation of leaders

July 26, 2010 11:55:53 AM PDT
A local nonprofit group is pursuing its vision that every young person will find a pathway to prosperity. Its recipe mixes a touch of sugar with a bit of creative classroom education to create a new generation of business, civic and community leaders.

"It's cake with icing, and it's molded into a ball and then dipped in chocolate," said teen entrepreneur Crystal Vo.

Seventeen year old Crystal Vo of San Jose is quite dedicated to making and baking the little cake balls for her newly-launched business, called Sweet Tooth Bites -- bite-sized for a reason.

"Someone might feel guilty about eating a whole slice of cake. This way you can have about three or four and you still won't feel bad since they're such small portions," said Vo.

This teen entrepreneur has put a lot of thought and planning into crafting this sweet business and it's paying off. She just won first prize at a regional youth business plan competition last month. Crystal first hooked the judges with a 30 second pitch.

"And then you need to go into advertising, how you're going to market this product; and then you go into the numbers -- where how much you're going to sell it for, how much you're going to make per year," said Vo.

Crystal learned how to create a business plan through an entrepreneurship education program at her Silver Creek High School. It's a program funded by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a national nonprofit organization also known as NFTE. That's committed to closing the opportunity gap.

"We focus on going into schools that are in low-income communities, so that's definitely our emphasis is helping youth that might have fewer resources available to them to succeed on their own terms," said NFTE Program Director Krista Katsantonis.

In the Bay Area, 20 high schools and community-based organizations teach this entrepreneurship program. Since starting in this region in 1994, NFTE has helped more than 10,000 youth learn how to start their own businesses.

Crystal is already making money, filling orders on special request. But she has grander visions for taking Sweet Tooth Bites beyond a bakery and into grocery stores.

"I want this to be something that a little kid can go like 'mommy I want that.' So then they just put it into the cart and can enjoy it at home," said Vo.

But first, Crystal is headed on all-expense paid trip to New York to compete for $10,000 in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. In October, 20 students from across the country will battle it out for top business idea. Regardless who wins, they're all considered a very-prepared next generation.

"The things that they learn in the classroom help them become young entrepreneurs, but also, for example with Crystal, if they choose to go and work for someone else, because they're already smart business owners, they're great employees," said Katsantonis.


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