Six local students were announced Thursday as the winners of the 2021 Loudoun Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA! Loudoun) Investor Panel, an annual event in which students pitch business plans to a panel of investors and business leaders.
A total of $5,000 in investor capital was awarded to the six winners, with Ashburn's Abhinav Sheth of Eagle Ridge Middle School taking the top prize of $1,500, according to a Thursday announcement.
YEA! Loudoun is presented by the Loudoun Chamber Foundation and the Loudoun Economic Development Authority, and is a seven-month program that teaches students "how to develop, pitch and launch their very own small business," officials said.
This year's panel included Alice Frazier of Bank of Charles Town, Bernard Mustafa of BE FIT Technologies, Preeti Sarnaik of Wells Fargo, Jenny Culnen of the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, Larry Melton of The Building People and Theodora Petrakis of SeKON.
Participating students presented their pitches to the panel on March 23 in a live-streamed event.
Sheth's top prize-winning idea, Out of the Box Costumes, comprises "unique, innovative, STEAM-based DIY costume kits that bring imagination to life," officials said.
While Sheth took top honors, Yuvraj Chauhan of Aldie's John Champe High School and Aryaa Agarwal of Ashburn's Broad Run High School each won $1,000.
$500 prizes went to Harlow Stanley of Leesburg's Belmont Ridge Middle School, Ella Sultani of Chantilly's Freedom High School and Chela Hess of Ashburn's Stone Hill Middle School.
The YEA Loudoun! Class of 2022 will accept applications until June 12.
Those who wish to apply or learn more information can visit loudounchamber.org/yea.