SAN FRANCISCO – March 22, 2012 – From the Bay Area to New York, online startups to pop-up shops, there is an entrepreneurial spirit that's sweeping across the country – and it doesn't discriminate by age.
Building on this spirit, VerticalResponse announced the three winners of its "Next Teen Tycoon" online video competition. The company – a leading provider of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media marketing, event marketing, online survey and direct mail marketing – launched the national contest in mid-January with the goal of advancing teen entrepreneurship. It drew nearly 40 video entries from teens all over country hoping for a chance to win prizes totaling $10,000.
"At VerticalResponse, we're all about helping small businesses succeed, no matter how young the owner," said Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse and one of the contest judges. "At a time when we still don't know what the economy will be like tomorrow, it is so inspiring to see these enterprising teens take charge of their own future. All of our contestants should be proud."
Eleven finalists were chosen via public online voting, and a panel of judges selected the grand-prize and two second-place winners from the finalist pool.
Fifteen-year-old Jason Li, founder of iReTron, nabbed the grand prize and will receive $4,000 in "seed money" to grow the business, as well as a free trip to attend the 2012 TEDxTeen conference in New York. iReTron encourages people to turn in their old cellphones and other electronic devices for cash. The devices are then sold abroad, where there is still a demand.
"I started iReTron with the hopes of creating a way for everyone to help the environment," said Jason, a sophomore at Saratoga High School in Los Gatos, Calif., near San Francisco. "We made our public debut at the Green Festival in San Francisco last year, where I spoke in front of 500 people. We've completed more than 500 transactions so far. We're working with high schools, colleges and other companies to let people know it's easy to be green."
As a second-place winner, 16-year-old Jack Uesugi of Wahiawa, Hawaii, will receive $2,000 to help grow his business, a1000x (a Thousand Times). a1000x partners with local artists and helps market their designs while participating in social entrepreneurship. The company prints, sells and promotes limited-edition clothing and other merchandise featuring these designs, and a portion of all profits goes toward social causes.
"We're called a Thousand Times because whatever you do in life, you want to do it big. You want to do it a thousand times better and put a thousand times more effort into it," said Jack, a junior at Island Pacific Academy. "You'll find that in the end, you'll get the same in return."
Four high school seniors from Destrehan, La., near New Orleans, also will receive $2,000 to help further their multimedia company, StudioVictus. Co-founders Austin Bergeron, Matt Duhe, Joe Solito and Joshua Stoker officially launched the business in November and offer a variety of services such as photography, Web design, videography, graphic design and app design. The company recently designed the official New Orleans Hornets mobile app, and works with a growing number of local businesses.
"With the seed money, we plan to make huge investments in our company," said Joshua, who attends Destrehan High School along with his three co-founders. "Company work shirts for professionalism on the jobsite, business cards and other advertisements to promote our company, a studio lighting kit for our photography work, and some money for Web hosting."
All 11 finalists will receive two best-selling books, "Your Starting Point for Student Success" by America's top young speaker, Arel Moodie, and "Entrepreneurship" by Steve Mariotti, founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
Both Moodie and Mariotti also served as contest judges, alongside Daniel Brusilovsky (CEO/founder of Teens in Tech Labs); John Jantsch (small business consultant and founder of Duct Tape Marketing); Janine Popick (CEO of VerticalResponse); Ramon Ray (small business expert and editor of SmallBizTechnology.com); and Nicole Marie Richardson (executive editor at Inc.com).
"For 30 years, I've been working with schools and teaching young people how to run a business, and I think we are truly at an incredible time when it comes to youth entrepreneurship," said NFTE founder Mariotti, whose organization holds several competitions per year including the World Series of Innovation and Elevator Pitch Challenge. "The students in the VerticalResponse contest have the motivation and courage to act on an idea and make it happen, and that's a large part of what being an entrepreneur is all about."
To view all 11 contest finalists, visit http://www.verticalresponse.com/TeenTycoon.
VerticalResponse Inc. provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media marketing, event marketing, direct mail marketing and online surveys. Its mission is to empower small businesses and non-profit organizations to easily and affordably create, manage and analyze their own marketing campaigns. Users can benefit from a wide variety of features including more than 700 free email marketing templates; tools to create, schedule and publish content over social media networks; and robust reporting so that they can understand overall marketing success. VerticalResponse is headquartered in San Francisco, Calif. For more information visit www.verticalresponse.com, and connect on Twitter at @VR4SmallBiz and Facebook at www.facebook.com/verticalresponse.