Kid CEOs Take Home $14,000 in Prize Money at LEAP’s Sixth Annual Youth Startup Expo Event

Kid CEOs Take Home $14,000 in Prize Money at LEAP’s Sixth Annual Youth Startup Expo Event

Students from Across the Region Share Business Ideas with Local Leaders and Community

LANSING, Mich. – Close to 250 of tomorrow’s business leaders took center stage at Lansing Economic Area Partnership’s (LEAP) sixth annual Youth Startup Expo Monday at the Lansing Center. Youth entrepreneurs and innovators from across the region pitched and presented their business ideas to local business and community leaders and residents for a share of $14,000 in cash prizes. Students from 14 schools were represented taking home awards in 27 diverse categories from best tech business, eco-friendly and animal friendly business, to best female-owned business. LEAP’s Youth Startup Expo is the annual culminating event for the Lansing Youth Startup Challenge initiative, a program designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a career path and to help students explore the multidisciplinary opportunities embedded in entrepreneurship.

“The purpose of the Youth Startup Expo is to help build a culture of entrepreneurship, so our young talent can start seeing and thinking entrepreneurially–to visualize their ideas in the marketplace,” said Joe Carr, Deputy Director of LEAP’s New Economy Division. “This is a starting point to help them learn how to write a business plan, present themselves professionally and deliver their ideas in front of a group of supportive adults.”

The Youth Startup Challenge is a unique regional approach to growing and supporting youth entrepreneurship, and includes the Youth Startup Expo, 5 Minute Tops events, and a New Comers New Ideas event. The initiative focuses on connecting school districts and other youth programs to help young entrepreneurs access and become familiar with essential business development tools, resources and training focused on developing critical business skills at an earlier age.

“The number one thing public school teachers are looking to do to keep our kids moving forward with learning is to be engaging,“ said Everett High School teacher Lothar Konietzko. “Any time I can do something that brings real life into my classroom, it makes my teaching come alive, which excites my students to learn and intrinsic motivation takes over.” Konietzko has been bringing his students to the Expo for several years and was the recipient of this year’s Expo champion teacher award, a $1,000 prize to a champion teacher/educator to support classroom instruction centered on helping students develop the skills needed to become entrepreneurs and business owners.

Other top winners of the day included:

  • $1,000 Grand Champion: Leslie Area Sports Center, seventh grade, Leslie Middle School
  • First Place Business Plan: Leslie Area Sports Center, seventh grade, Leslie Middle School
  • First Place Table Pitch: McCool’s Memories, eight grade, Maple Valley Jr Sr High School
  • First Place Booth Display: Mobile Meats, twelfth grade, Stockbridge High School

“These amazing kids are the future workforce, future CEOs and future leaders of our region,” said Bob Trezise, President and CEO of LEAP. Together with champion educators from the three counties and support from the MEDC, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and numerous LEAP members, LEAP is so proud to continue to be able to offer this event, which is honestly my favorite event of the entire year!”

The 2019 Youth Startup Expo was made possible with generous sponsorship from the MEDC, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, AF Group, CASE Credit Union, Consumers Energy, Dart Bank, Dart Development, Delta Dental, Gillespie Group, Hayes Green Beach, Loomis Law Firm, Michigan Business Network, MSUFCU and PNC.

Learn more about LEAP’s work to build and sustain a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem for all ages.


The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all—working every day to grow, retain and attract business.

Category: Entrepreneurship, Press Releases