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December 04 2013

Winners Selected for Operation HOPE Business In A Box Pitch Contest in Denver

Financial dignity nonprofit helps Denver students at CEC Middle College School move closer to putting their business dreams into action

Denver – December 3, 2013 – With more than 100 people in attendance, pitch participants Manda Adu, Miranda Slack and Iris Barreras, and Jesus Gonzalez & Jose Meza captured the first-round spot as winners of the Operation HOPE Business In A Box Pitch Contest at CEC Middle College School on December 3. Each team’s presentation was judged on a number of factors, including viability of the business idea, market understanding, and professionalism. The winning ideas ranged from recycling fashion to education, and were listed as follows:

  • Manda Adu--Knowledge to Knowledge, a startup which teaches elderly people how to use technology.
  • Miranda Slack & Iris Barreras --Thriftaholics, up-cycling t-shirts and embellishing them with homemade pockets with used fabric found at the thrift store for the perfect fashion statement.
  • Jesus Gonzalez & Jose Meza-- Preparded², creating an App that is an ACT alarm, to turn off the alarm users must answer an educational question correctly.                                                                                                                                                                             

These teams will advance to the next step, which includes developing their business plans and working with a mentor to launch their own business.   

“We are excited to see such a hi-level of participation and so many creative ideas,” said Mary Kathryn (MK) Sagaria Banking on Our Future, program manager, Denver. “This program will challenge our students to innovate and create—what they learn through HOPE Business In A Box will give them skills that will help them throughout the course of their lives.”   

The students pitched their best small-business ideas to an esteemed panel of local judges: Real Estate Professional Susie Martin; Tech consultant Norman Woolworth; Local Author and Manager of Beal Bank Greg Thompson; and Former CFO of TeleTech Holding John Troka. Randy Johnson the instructional superintendent of the Pathways School and Scott Springer the principal of CEC Middle College and were also on hand to support the initiative for Denver Public Schools.

“This semester a number of students from three different Career and Technology programs at The CEC Middle College found out first-hand what it is like to ‘pitch’ a business idea to a panel of investors.  It has been a great opportunity for me personally to have some deep and insightful conversations with a number of students about their entrepreneurial ideas, reflected Mark Bell, assistant principal, CEC Middle College.  “I have seen a broad range of start up thinking.  A few of the ideas were predictable but by far most of the ideas were new, creative and tied to the student’s daily world.  Best of all, the word is spreading, other students are asking their teachers ‘why don’t we do this as a class.’ Thank you Operation HOPE for giving our students this opportunity.” 

Through a partnership with DataWind, makers of a new PC tablet, these winners will receive their own tablet to use for developing their own business plan and budget. Once students complete the Business Role Model program, they will present their updated plan to Operation HOPE judges for an opportunity to earn up to $500 in start-up funds to launch their business. Once the businesses are started and growing, students will have an opportunity to access resources through crowd funding and crowdsourcing to keep their business growing and expand their learning opportunity. The program will help students learn career skills, boost confidence and gain real world experience.

The competition is part of HOPE Business In A Box Academies (HBIAB), a financial empowerment and entrepreneurship initiative DPS launched this fall in partnership with Operation HOPE. Designed by Operation HOPE in conjunction with Gallup, HBIAB is a 10-week program that gives students an opportunity to turn their business ideas into reality and to empower students to take greater control over their financial future, by planting seeds of success. HBIAB is currently being implemented at six DPS high schools and intensive pathway programs, and DPS plans to expand it to additional schools and throughout the district by 2020.

About Operation HOPE, Inc.

Since its inception in 1992, HOPE, a global nonprofit focused on financial dignity, has empowered more than 2 million individuals and directed more than $1.5 billion in private capital to America's low-wealth communities. It has recruited a growing army of 20,000 HOPE Corps volunteers, and helped raise average credit scores for financial case management clients more than 120 points over an average 18-month period. It currently serves more than 300 U.S. cities, as well as South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and most recently, the United Arab Emirates. HOPE's next phase will be focused on Project 5117, a multi-year initiative that will track and increase business role models for youth, boost credit scores for adults, and empower underserved communities, as a part of its “silver rights” mission to make free enterprise work for everyone. To learn how you can join Project 5117, go to or visit to learn more. Please  follow us on Twitter, @operationhope, and Like us on Facebook.