Teen ABQ Startup Weekend is Albuquerque’s rendition of the adult-oriented Startup Weekend, an event geared towards flushing out business plans and solving problemsIn that entrepreneurial spirit, a teen started the event.
Taylor Chavez, organizer and founder of Teen Startup Weekend, said after she attended an adult Startup Weekend when she was 14, she decided she wanted to open it up to her age group.
“In 54 hours we get together with people you have yet to meet and you start a business — or at least attempt to,” Chavez said.
Albuquerque is the home to the only Teen Startup Weekend, she said, and she is elated to see it happening for a second year.
Chavez said she felt intimidated when she was the youngest attendee at the adult Startup Weekend, and she thought that other teens might feel the same way. Last year there were 21 participants and this year there were 34, after several dropped due to illness.
“Teenagers are fearless and they have so many great ideas,” Chavez said.
At the beginning, participants were allowed to give one-minute elevator speeches about their ideas, and the teams formed up based on the more popular ideas and got to work, she said.
On Sunday the groups had five minutes to lay out their business plans in front of judges. This year’s winners took home a consulting package.
The team Brain Bridge, directed primarily by Michael Allen, took the first-place award. The team’s pitch focused on creating an online web-based education system that could replace Blackboard and other learning platforms. The platform would help create a more fluid communication between teachers and students, Allen said.
As long as a student is interested in entrepreneurship, Teen Startup Weekend is the right place, Chavez said. Students learned how to work in groups, an important part of being a business owner.
Stacy Sacco, lecturer and director of the UNM Small Business Institute, which connects local small businesses with students, judged the event. The presentations demonstrate all of the steps the teens go through, how they are going to meet the need or solve the problem, he said.
“A kid doesn’t put parameters around things because they haven’t been taught about all those things that don’t work. They’re open to new ideas,” he said. “They see beyond (the lines).”
It is important to encourage thinking outside the box, because children don’t confine their ideas, Sacco said.
The event is perfect for encouraging teens to develop business plans, Sacco said, especially since Albuquerque’s economy is more welcoming to smaller businesses than before.
“This is a small business state — this is an entrepreneurial state,” he said. “We really have a focus on small businesses and I don’t think people realize that.”
This has always been the case, he said, but only recently has a new energy emerged towards local mom and pop businesses.
“New Mexico, along with Colorado, has the largest concentration of small business establishments in the Southwestern U.S. It also has the smallest concentration of big businesses,” according to the New Mexico Regional Review published by the New Mexico Department of Workforce solutions in fall 2013.
Lawrence Chavez, coordinator for Teen Startup Weekend, agreed with Sacco. He said the environment is perfect for young minds. Teens can flesh out a business plan and solve problems — a key component of creating business plans.
Through the program students can take the opportunity to try out entrepreneurism and see if it is what they are interested in, he said. There are coaches who have started their own businesses who are there to help the teens.
It allows individuals to apply a business idea without the risk of failing or being committed too long, he said.
“Even if you go out and you do a business plan and it takes you time and effort and it doesn’t work, that’s perfectly fine, that’s the way the world works,” Lawrence Chavez said.
Moriah Carty is the assistant culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MoriahCarty.