Identifying innovative ways to address challenges caused by COVID-19, several Shawnee Mission students recently earned top honors in the STARTLAND pitch competition, hosted by CommunityAmerica Credit Union.
Competitors from Shawnee Mission were serving as spring innovation interns from Community America’s Innovation Lab. They worked among 357 local high school and college students, divided into 43 teams who were partnered with professional entrepreneurs to develop ideas and share a pitch. The top eight out of 45 teams pitched their ideas to an all-star panel of Kansas City celebrity judges: Kemet Coleman, CEO and artist at Kemet Creative; Heidi Gardner, KC native and a current cast member on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”; Lisa Ginter, CEO of CommunityAmerica; Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations; and Sandy Kemper, founder and CEO of C2FO.
Yutong Yi, Shawnee Mission East High School junior, was a member of the High School 1st place team, presenting HexaChat. In addition, the team was named a Fan Favorite. HexaChat is a safe mental health forum for youth seeking counsel from volunteer, qualified professionals.
Kennedy Kaufman, Shawnee Mission East High School senior, and Reid Venable, Shawnee Mission South High School senior, were members of the runner-up high school team that presented Fit Nest. Fit Nest is a mobile app that allows high school athletic teams to continue connecting and training through team fitness competitions.
The first-place winning team in the high school category was awarded $5,000. The Fan Favorite winner, voted on by participants was awarded $1,000 prize, and the runner up in the high school category was awarded $1,000, thanks to CommunityAmerica Credit Union and the Kauffman Foundation. In addition to the cash prize and the opportunity for virtual face time with all-star judges, winners are expected to earn an opportunity to implement their pitch plans through Kansas City business mentors.