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LEAP’s Youth Startup Expo Event Helps Young Entrepreneurs Prepare for the Future Economy

Wednesday, March 28, 2018  
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Students from Across the Region Share Business Ideas with Local Leaders and Community


The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) welcomed close to 150 youth entrepreneurs and innovators from across the region to the Lansing Center on March 27th, to compete at the 5th Annual Youth Startup Expo. The Youth Startup Expo is the annual culminating event for the Lansing Youth Startup Challenge initiative. 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, New Comers New Ideas event, and a new summer camp in 2018. 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.

“It’s important that we help our youth see entrepreneurship as a viable career path,” said Tony Willis, Director of New Economy at LEAP. “Empowering the next generation to think critically about their business ideas and helping them build the confidence needed to pursue those ideas, contributes to the future vitality of our region’s economy,”

Tuesday’s event showcased 101 ideas from middle and high school students from across the entire three county region. All participants were required to submit a business plan prior to the event and then develop a pitch presentation and booth display for the Expo. Displays and pitches were evaluated by more than 60 local business, education, and community leaders, and winners took home cash prizes of a combined $10,000 in 29 award categories.

The day’s top winners included:

  • $1,000 Grand Champion: Emily’s Farm, 12th grade
  • 1st Place Overall Business Plan: Passion, 12th grade
  • 1st Place Table Pitch: Malibu’s Bath Bombs, 12th grade
  • 1st Place Booth Display: Leslie Area Sports Center, 6th grade

In addition, LEAP awards 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. The 2018 Champion Teacher/Educator prize was awarded to Jassen Dowling from Maple Valley Jr./Sr. High.

“This is my favorite event of the year, and I could not have been more excited to share the day with some of the amazing kid CEO’s from across our region,” said Bob Trezise, President and CEO of LEAP. “These young entrepreneurs took big important steps toward becoming successful in the future. Together with champion educators from the three counties and support from the MEDC, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, LEPFA, and our LEAP member sponsors, LEAP is so proud to be able to sustain this event.”

The 2018 Youth Startup Expo was made possible with generous sponsorship from the MEDC, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, AF Group, CASE Credit Union, Cinnaire, City of Lansing, Consumers Energy, Dart Development, Gillespie Group, Harvest Creative Services, MSUFCU, PNC Foundation, Spartan Motors, and Triterra.

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

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders committed to building a prosperous and vibrant region where business can thrive. To do this, we help entrepreneurs start new businesses, help existing businesses grow, and attract new businesses to the region. For more information about LEAP, please visit

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