After participating in the 12th annual Jackson County Maverick Challenge, Breanna Lawrence took her business plan to the next level.
The junior was among Seymour High School students who entered the Innovate WithIN Pitch Competition.
That allows high-schoolers from every region of Indiana a chance to pitch their entrepreneurial idea for a chance at $25,000 and the opportunity to collaborate with world-class innovators to help turn their business plan from a dream to a reality, according to innovatewithin.org.
Participants who submit a successful video pitch are eligible to compete in the regional finals and go head-to-head with other student businesses in front of a panel of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Seymour High School junior Breanna Lawrence was one of the 10 finalists in the 12th annual Jackson County Maverick Challenge, and she’s now one of the 50 regional finalists in Indiana’s Innovate WithIN Pitch Competition.
Photo courtesy of Robin Perry
Lawrence is among the 50 students chosen out of the five regions who will compete April 10 in regional contests. She will go to the University of Evansville for that.
About a week after submitting her pitch for Cruzin’ Cabs for Kids, she received an email letting her know she was a regional finalist.
She was in Shane Fallis’ AP U.S. history class at the time and told him she needed to go talk to business teachers Dawn Jones and Robin Perry.
“Those two teachers knew first, and then I went home and told my dad. It was exciting,” Lawrence said. “It’s just really meaningful to have this opportunity because I do get to represent this region and plenty of other people that make it to it.”
Lawrence and the other regional finalists will deliver a “Shark Tank”-style 5-minute pitch to a panel of judges.
“Getting to stand in front of a new panel of judges, I enjoy public speaking, but that’s unique, I guess,” Lawrence said. “I like presenting my ideas. I’ve always been an innovative child, like I always created things, so just being able to express those ideas that I’ve had and this one actually going to work, it’s just very fun. I’m excited.”
Lawrence also had Cruzin’ Cabs for Kids as her Maverick Challenge project. It’s a local busing system for children who can’t drive or are unable to get to and from places.
“For example, if a child plays sports and they are in middle school, but their parents are working after school and they can’t get them to and from home and practice, this would be a transportation system to get them there and back,” she said.
In coming up with her project, Lawrence said she asked local parents about a continuous problem for them, and they said it’s transportation for their kids.
“Then I started thinking back to my childhood and I was like, ‘This is something that went on with me and my parents. They would work, and so my grandparents had to come get me or somebody else had to take me to volleyball practices,’” she said. “So I thought this would be a great solution for that problem in our community.”
Lawrence was among 10 finalists for the Maverick Challenge who got to present to a panel of judges in January. She earned $100.
“Overall, I thought it was a very fun experience because it gave me the opportunity to do things that I probably wouldn’t get to do anywhere else, so it was just an experience to remember,” she said.
When she learned about Innovate WithIN, Lawrence said she took all of the feedback she received from the Maverick Challenge judges and implemented that in her pitch.
Along with revising some of her presentation slides, she recently met with her Indiana Small Business Development Center mentor, Jon Myers, and she plans to do some practice presentations at school and have video conference calls for networking and information purposes.
Perry said 2,500 applications were submitted for Innovate WithIN, so it’s great Lawrence was among the 50 chosen.
“I’m thrilled. I’m so proud of her,” Perry said. “Breanna has made us proud.”
Lawrence won a scholarship for advancing to regional from Region 1, and fellow SHS students Della Jones, Gabriel Poole, Ismael Santiago Cruz and Kylie Cooper won scholarships for submitting a completed application.
“I’m proud of everybody that reached out of their comfort zone and submitted with Innovate WithIN,” Perry said.
Those who place first at the regional competitions get to move on to pitch to a panel of government officials, venture capitalists and local entrepreneurs at the final state competition in June.
The winning business receives $25,000 in seed funding, and team members can receive up to $10,000 in tuition to any Indiana college and additional prizes worth $5,000.
If Lawrence or any other SHS students want to enter Innovate WithIN again next year, Perry said they could do it and have a chance at winning more money.
“You’re able to compete year after year with your idea,” she said. “You just complete and you refine it, and things change, technology changes. You make those changes to your business plan, and you’re able to submit again.”