St. Louis teen is grand prize winner of 2021 Young Entrepreneurs Pitch Challenge

  • Published: Monday, Oct. 18, 2021

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Anjana Goli, 15, envisioned a website called RecipEazy that would empower home chefs with customizable recipes and online ingredient ordering. The idea earned Goli, of St. Louis, the grand prize in this year’s annual Missouri AfterSchool Network Youth Entrepreneurship Pitch Challenge. 

Goli, a freshman who attends Stanford Online High School, received a $500 gift card, a consultation with a successful Missouri entrepreneur and a scholarship to VentureLab’s Spark mentoring program for young entrepreneurs.

“I came up with the idea for RecipEazy a few months ago, and the pitch competition was my first showcase,” Goli said. “The pitch competition gave me confidence to take it to the next level.” She plans to create a RecipEazy website and find people who want to help her “scale the business and be part of the journey.”

In the Pitch Challenge, students ages 5-17 from afterschool and summer enrichment programs across the state pitch an idea for a new product, service or technology in a one-minute video. A statewide panel of judges score entries in three grade level categories – grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Winners and finalists received gift cards and access to online resources to support young entrepreneurs with their ideas.

Contestants were also encouraged to think broadly about their entrepreneurial interests and futures.

“One of the keys to being successful in entrepreneurship, and in anything you do, is to start before you’re ready,” said Matthew Moheban, CEO and co-founder of 220 Leadership. Moheban was keynote speaker at an Aug. 23 virtual celebration announcing the winners and finalists. “You’ve started early.... You’ve taken that first step.... Think about continuing to build upon that experience.”

Moheban and his brother, Joseph, left their jobs in the financial sector to help students find and pursue their passions. The Chicago-based brothers now educate, coach and speak to afterschool student audiences nationwide.

The Pitch Challenge is part of a statewide youth entrepreneurship initiative launched in 2020 by the Missouri AfterSchool Network with grant support from the Charles S. Mott Foundation. Through the initiative, Missouri afterschool providers can access training, curricula and partnerships to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset during out-of-school time. Students are encouraged to explore entrepreneurship career paths with support from their local afterschool programs and communities.

Winners

  • Grades 9-12: Anjana Goli, St. Louis, RecipEazy; Isabel Cepeda, Chesterfield, Pet.ly; Anna Ahrens, Cape Girardeau, Betsy's Best Baby Blocks.
  • Grades 6-8: Kasen Ahrens, Cape Girardeau, The Toothpaste Toothbrush; Frances Moomey, St. Louis, RoBo Pets; Asher Ahrens, Cape Girardeau, Binder Builders.
  • Grades K-5: McKenna Mackey, Hermitage, Pet Playhouse; Aurora Jones, St. Louis, Scented Masks; Judd Lawson, El Dorado Springs, Poultry Arm-Heat Light Holder.

Sponsors and partners of the 2021 Pitch Challenge include Charles S. Mott Foundation, Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School, VentureLab, Missouri Chamber Foundation, MOSourceLink, MU Extension/4-H and 220 Leadership.

The Missouri AfterSchool Network builds partnerships and systems across the state that improve, support and sustain high-quality afterschool programs. For more information, visit moafterschool.org.

Interview with 2021 Pitch Challenge grand prize winner Anjana Goli, 15, of St. Louis

What was it like to participate in the Youth Entrepreneurship Pitch Challenge?

It was a really great experience. I came up with the idea for RecipEazy a few months ago. The pitch competition was my first showcase, so I was a little bit nervous that the judges wouldn't like my idea. I had a lot of fun filming and acting in my pitch video, and I'm so happy that the judges were able to understand and connect with RecipEazy and the problem I am aiming to solve. The pitch competition gave me confidence to take it to the next level.

What got you started as a young entrepreneur?

I'm a freshman at Stanford Online High School, and I got into entrepreneurship just last year when I joined an entrepreneurship club. I've always been intrigued by entrepreneurship and being a business person. I always looked up to entrepreneurs, especially teen entrepreneurs, who are running huge businesses and doing what they love every day. They reach so many people and make their lives better. I decided that I wanted to make that impact, too. Since then, I've joined pitch competitions like the Conrad Challenge, I now lead an entrepreneurship club at my school, and I came up with RecipEazy!

Have afterschool or summer enrichment programs helped you as a young entrepreneur?

The Allsup Academy (a virtual program at St. Louis University) really helped me develop my pitching skills and taught me essential parts of a pitch that really have to stand out and be super firm, such as the aim of your company and the problems you are solving, because that is what you are selling to the customer!

What do you aim to do next with your prize-winning idea?

The next thing I aim to do with my idea is to create a website for RecipEazy and find people who want to help me scale the business and be part of the journey.

Do you have any words of advice for other young entrepreneurs out there?

I would tell other young entrepreneurs to not be hesitant about starting your business. It can be really daunting, especially as a young entrepreneur, to have confidence in yourself and your idea, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to just go headfirst into your idea. If you're passionate about your business, nothing can stop you!

Photos available:

https://extension.missouri.edu/media/wysiwyg/Extensiondata/NewsAdmin/Photos/2021/20211018-masn-1.jpg
Missouri AfterSchool Network 2021 Youth Entrepreneurship Pitch Challenge grand prize winner Anjana Goli. Photo courtesy of 2021 Anjana Goli.

https://extension.missouri.edu/media/wysiwyg/Extensiondata/NewsAdmin/Photos/2021/20211018-masn-2.jpg
Participants in the 2021 Pitch Challenge.

Writer: Steven Henness

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