Portland-area teens now have a local platform to showcase their business ideas and sell services and products to professionals, like-minded peers and the community.
Spark Teen — a student-run organization that creates a space where high school entrepreneurs can share business ideas and find mentors that can help make a difference for them — will be hosting its first Night Market and Pitchfest from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at Portland State University's Karl Miller Center, 631 S.W. Harrison St.
The event is being hosted in partnership with REAP — a multicultural youth leadership program that works with grades 3-12.
At the Night Market there will be 15-20 teen vendors from school districts around the Portland-metro area selling various business products and services, including aerial photography services, artwork, candles and hair salon services. The other half of the event is the Pitchfest where high schoolers will have three to five minutes to pitch their business plan to a panel of three local entrepreneurs who will judge and provide feedback, and vote on the top three winners, who will receive a cash prize of $500, $300 and $200 to put toward their business idea.
"I think an event like this for kids where they can really just explore or see other kids (get) into this, (is) really cool," said 17-year-old West Linn High School graduate Aliris Tang, who is friends with the co-founders of Spark Teen and is helping manage the event. "I really like planning events and I have time so I just wanted to give back to the community this summer, do something productive with my time. Hopefully when I come back in a few years, it will have grown and there will be more kids doing entrepreneurship."
Tang's friends, Lincoln High School sophomore Kyler Wang and junior Kai Fine founded Spark Teen last December after Wang attended a summer program last year hosted by Young Entrepreneur's Business Week (YEBW) — a nonprofit organization that enables 14- to 18-year-olds to learn about business. Wang said he reached out to one of the keynote speakers, who is also on REAP's board, after the camp and started chatting with him about the Night Market concept. He then asked Fine to join him and make the organization come to fruition.
"We kind of just walked in blind and learned it along the way," said Wang, adding that REAP team members and Tang have been a tremendous help. "I've always been interested in a bunch of different subject areas. I've loved math, history, writing, all of that. For me, entrepreneurship is about putting all those skills together and turning passions into marketable skills."
Wang is looking forward to seeing what business plans teens have been pursuing and showing the community that high schoolers are much more capable than they are given credit for.
"I want people to come here (to) see awesome vendors and be inspired by them," he said.
Community members can purchase dinner from the Eat N' Meet teen food vendor Kameron Berry and there will be beverages available and live music performed by teen musicians.
REAP has also expressed interest in funding another Night Market this winter.
"We are looking to make it bi-yearly or possibly one every season," Wang said. "It's made me a lot braver. I would say probably half our time is spent sending emails, calling people — often times it's a cold call — so we have gotten good at putting ourselves out there."
Tang and Spark Teen founders have also invited industry professionals to attend the event to give the market and Pitchfest a networking angle.
"Networking is really important in the business community so we are also trying to give these kids an opportunity to network with professionals and industry people," Tang said.
Though Pitchfest and vendor applications will be closed by the time the Spokesman heads to print, Wang reminds people to check the Spark Teen website at www.sparkteenmarket.com/ to sign up for future events and to check out the current list of vendors.
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