As adolescents we all believe that our personal struggles are unique, and no one else can possibly understand what we are going through. Although it may be true in terms of individual differences, the majority of teens fight through the same fears everyday. Most students don’t know whom to talk to with regards to these problems, but sometimes they are able to find help in the unlikeliest of places. This is where BUILD Greater Boston comes into play.
BUILD Greater Boston continues to provide students from a group of Boston high schools with the opportunity to transform into young entrepreneurs, and the motivation to pursue academic success. After attending a presentation and coaching session co-sponsored by BUILD and MassChallenge, students were placed in the spotlight and powered through one of the most nerve-wracking public speaking experiences of their young lives. At the MassChallenge event, students received advice and coaching by a panel of judges gathered from a select group of entrepreneurs and business professionals. Due to the high volume of students attending the event, only a few select teams were able to present in front of the crowd of 100s.
Soon after the MassChallenge event, our young entrepreneurs began their first round of showcases to practice presenting their businesses in front of a real panel of judges. This was a great opportunity for students to present not only in front of the judges, but also other entrepreneurs, mentors, teachers, and BUILD staff. This first showcase gave us a glimpse of BUILD student’s creativity and showed how they are still in the initial stages of development for their products.
The most hectic hours are those after classes have ended for the day and everyone is anxious waiting for the showcase to begin. Students are treated to lunch and spend some time with their mentors rehearsing their speech as the time counts down. If memorizing their speeches to present a business idea wasn’t novel enough, students must also dress in formal business clothing in order to portray a professional image in front the judges and rest of the crowd. Trying to make sure the students are dressed properly is probably the most hectic period of the day. Some students are able to bring their own clothes from home, but for those who don’t have the necessary resources, BUILD provides a wide selection of attire donated by mentors, coaches, and staff.
“No you can’t wear a t-shirt.” “You need to tuck your shirt in.” “Yes, your pants are actually supposed to go around your hips, and wear a belt.” “No, you can’t wear sneakers.” Are just a few of the things heard in the high school cafeterias as mentors and staff attempt to make sure the students are looking presentable.
As mentors and other staff members work to get the students ready, BUILD’s senior leadership welcomes the arriving judges and prepares them for the students’ presentations. As soon as students settle into their places in the audience the tension can be felt in the room. Some students are serious, and others giggle from a combination of excitement and nerves, as the room stands to welcome judges, whom are walking in. The judges take their seats at the front of the crowd, and after a few words from Regional Director Ayele Shakur the competition is under way.
Each team is instructed to walk by the judge’s tables and shake their hands before going on stage. As the presentations begin audience members can observe the wide range of individuals differences from the students who are presenting. Many students seemed nervous at first, and others spoke as if they had been doing this for years. Yet, one thing that was evident during every presentation was the students’ immense creativity, and a strong grasp of the entrepreneurial concepts they were taught by the BUILD teachers and mentors.
How did it feel to present in your first showcase?
I was a little nervous and a little excited to present for my first showcase. I’m used to performing in front of people so it was a little easier for me, but still nerve-wracking.
It felt weird and good because I hadn’t really prepared for it. I felt nervous as well because I thought it was going to be hard, but when the time came I cooled down.
I felt nervous presenting in front of a large crowd. Also, I felt relieved that I remembered everything I had to say.
Are you happy with your performance?
Yes, because we smiled and did the best we could.
I believe we did well, but could have done better.
What can you improve on?
One thing we can improve on is the collaboration between my team members, we need to work better together. Another thing to improve on is a better understanding of our product, because when presenting we mixed up explaining some of our designs.
I need to work on improving my hand movements. Instead of always moving them around, I could try to have them at my sides.
I can improve on my voice projection, because my voice wasn’t clear and loud.
How is your team doing? Are you hopeful your team can improve for future showcases and the Business Plan Competition?
Yes, we can improve dramatically. Next time we will hopefully have a prototype or a clear picture of what our product will look like.
My team is doing well, but I hope we can put more enthusiasm into our presentations.
Although the first showcase was a challenging event for students, the biggest hurdles are yet to come. In the coming months students will be participating in two more rounds of showcases, culminating in the Annual Business Plan Competition to be held on May 31st in front of 500 people, with the winning team receiving a $1500 cash prize.
Don’t forget to check our blog regularly over the course of the next few weeks, to receive more updates, and follow our students as they make their way towards successfully completing their first year in BUILD Greater Boston. Please check our website in the next few weeks if you are interested in any sponsorship or volunteer opportunities with BUILD Greater Boston.