Mount Saint Mary Academy students place first in national teen business competition
Every year, high schoolers participating in Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship put their business savvy to the test in the USA National Championship. This year’s competition in Sacramento, California saw Sweet Fortunes, a cupcake company created at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Tonawanda, rise to the top and take first place in the Socially Responsible Business category. For a few young women, the experience has been about more than just the win.
MSM Senior and Sweet Fortunes Chief Operating Officer Julia Badgley said the idea began three years ago when a brainstorm of ideas brought together interests in creating both fortune cookies and cupcakes. From there, she and fellow classmates Sara Ngo and Maddie King developed the idea into a successful enterprise.
Badgley said building the company and taking part in the SAGE program has helped the students with public speaking skills, personal confidence, and has given them a better understanding of the world of business – so much so, that she changed her intended college major last year.
“I was pretty sure that I wanted to study psychology and major in that. But then, for getting more involved in SAGE and just kind of diving in head first it really showed me that business is a lot more of what I want to do than I thought,” said Badgley.
While the cupcakes are made in the kitchen of MSM, not all of the company’s preparation happens in ovens and baking tins. As Badgley explained, a lot goes into getting ready for the national completion.
“We prepared an annual report which has everything from our finances to our marketing and the media we’ve gotten, and our succession plan,” said Badgley. “We prepare that and a presentation which is basically the same thing.
SAGE Judges like Stephanie King, Director of Alumni Relations at Erie Community College and advisor to Sweet Fortunes, consider numerous factors when they assess the students’ companies.
“I look at what the group is doing either as a social enterprise or as a socially responsible business. How they’re using community resources and giving back to the community. How they’re either being profitable or using different resources to be able to make their business successful,” King explained.
King said she also looks at the companies’ uniqueness, marketing, community outreach, and how students are investing in their businesses’ future.
The young women of Sweet Fortunes were out to defend their first place national title, which took them to last year’s World Cup Championship in Seoul, South Korea where they placed third.
King said the trip to Korea was part of the exposure to world cultures and business practices that SAGE participants experience.
“They had the opportunity to meet with Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson. They got to talk to him about what he does globally as an entrepreneur and the different things they’re doing in Africa,” said King. “The Girls have also had the chance to work closely with 43North in Buffalo.”
She says the recognition of 43North’s revitalization work in Buffalo has opened a lot of doors to the students.
After a presentation and questions and answer session with the judges on Saturday afternoon, Sweet Fortunes was among the top four finalists. By late Saturday night, they were first place winners.
On Sunday morning, the girls began planning a fundraising campaign to take them to the SAGE World Cup Championship in August in Manila, Philippines.