During his sophomore year in high school, Felix Puello wanted to start his own business, but he was strapped for cash.
A few years later, the ambitious teenger found the means.
Puello, now a 19-year-old business administration student at North Campus, was the first-ever grand prize winner of the Startup Challenge, a program that helps students launch their own business.
The young entrepreneur was chosen last spring semester among 80 participants. Puello won $5,000; two other students won $3,000.
He applied for the program just days before the competition was closed. Puello used his last $500 to purchase a camera to record the entry video, before returning the equipment.
Puello is now the co-founder and CEO of Onetown Longboard, a skateboard manufacturer for the modern world. His boards integrate technologies such as GPS, dual cameras and speedometers. They range in cost from $149-$169.
“I always wanted to start my own company,” Puello said. “I never thought I would start it at 19-years-old.”
The Idea Center, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship at Miami Dade College, launched the second Startup Challenge on Sept. 3. The deadline for the one-minute video submission is Sept. 25.
During the course of the competition, Puello learned valuable skills and strategies that allowed him to formulate his business plan and pitch it to panelists. Some of those panelists will eventually become Onetown Longboard’s mentors in the phases following the end of the competition.
The challenge’s core role is to act as a platform for the development of the students’ business idea and turn it into a competitive business that can thrive in the economy.
“The idea is to create these challenges [for] students to create companies and jobs,” said Ignacio Tejedor, Startup Challenge lead. And “to teach the students that there are others ways to develop their careers.”
The challenge consists of four phases.
In the first phase, students must submit a video explaining their business idea. The Startup Challenge is looking for innovative solutions to already existing problems or new products that fit into the concept of “market pain”— lack of such products.
“All students have innovative ideas,” said Leandro Finol, executive director at The Idea Center. “We help them turn their ideas into reality.”
In the remaining phases students are put to the task of identifying key elements of their business. The participants must present their elaborated ideas to panelists and mentors with hopes of advancing to the next phase of the challenge.
Weekly meetings and workshops designed to aid students in their preparation for phases two and three are fundamental for the success of the startup. It is in these sessions that students are faced with the logistics of starting a business.
Through the process, Puello learned the importance of the challenge because he was pushed to grow and learn new skills.
“[I was] figuring things that we [had] never done before: public speaking, presentation and developing a prototype,” Puello said. “Ways to solve problems you never encountered [before].”
Puello continues the arduous work of improving of his prototypes by investing hours disarming circuit boards and adapting them to the structure of the board. He’s grateful that competitions such as The Startup Challenge exists because they make business ideas seem more realistic and accomplishable.
He now spends endless hours perfecting his products and managing his business.
“Strive for perfection,” the young CEO advised Startup Challenge applicants. “You will not always achieve it but it will be worth it.”
For more information regarding the challenge, visit their webpage.