John Hope Bryant, Founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, surprised students at Washington’s School of Banking Finance and Investment when he announced that the budding entrepreneurs would have an opportunity to participate in a pilot program through which they can compete for professional mentors, financial coaches and start-up money to develop and execute their business ideas.
Bryant, along with Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, Inc., and Esther Stearn, President and CEO of LPL Investment Holdings Inc, are making an investment in the students’ dreams, and giving them the chance to participate in Operation HOPE’s student version of “Shark Tank,” the ABC reality show featuring entrepreneurs seeking investors for their businesses and products. Their hope is that by supporting and investing in youthful creativity, passion and ingenuity, they are providing a foundation for ideas that could someday change the world.
Students participating in the program will take financial literacy classes which will teach them about dignity, capitalism and money, entrepreneurship and how to take control of their financial futures. Each student will select one business idea from a list of ideas that cost $500 or less to start. The students will develop their ideas, and eventually “pitch” them on-stage to a panel of judges.
News of the competition re-ignited a certain passion in 11thgrader, Kiya Gray. Kiya, like many students present, frequently thinks about starting her own business. She wants to share her love of fashion with the world by creating a fashion magazine and a clothing line.
“I’ve always loved fashion, and I’ve always been sort of a trend-setter when it comes to clothes. I always think outside the box,” the teenager said while modeling her jazzed up version of the Washington School of Banking and Finance school uniform.Kiya wants to create a fashion magazine so others can realize that fashion is a great form of expression, because, as she says, “You can communicate who you are and how you feel through how you dress.
“When I’m sad, I wear dark colors. When I’m happy, I wear bright colors. Fashion is my outlet to get away,” she stated.
Kiya’s passion for fashion is just the sort of imaginative spirit and enthusiasm Bryant, Clifton and Stearn are seeking to cultivate through the student entrepreneurship program. The three CEOs answered questions from the group and they each gave the students inspiring messages to mull over.
When asked why he never gave up after several failed business attempts, Bryant simply stated, “Because I didn’t want to be broke.”
That statement resonated with Kiya.
“I’ll leave here today knowing that anything is possible,” she said. “I learned that you’re going to have doubt, and doubters, but that’s normal. Don’t give up, even if you don’t think you have enough money. If you really want it and you have the motivation, you can do it. So, I’m going to keep trying until I get my own business, because, it’s like he said, I don’t want to be broke.”
To learn more about Operation HOPE, please visit www.operationhope.org.