The team from North Carolina A&T State University took top honors in the fifth annual Moguls in the Making entrepreneurial pitch competition, where 60 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) developed innovative and impactful solutions to address economic mobility challenges using vital business skills.
The competition, which ran from September 6-10, was hosted by Ally Financial in collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College community, with special appearance by multi-platinum artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Big Sean.
“Moguls in the Making is an investment Ally makes to provide career-launching business experience,” says Ally Financial CEO Jeffrey J. Brown. “We’re intentional about how we show up as an ally, focusing on efforts that support economic mobility and inspire social change. Programs like this provide access and opportunities for HBCU students to learn core business and entrepreneurial skills and help to build an early talent pipeline with bright, passionate and creative individuals who will be our future leaders.”
Sixty students – 15 teams with four students each – toured Charlotte, one of Ally’s hometown markets, to learn about the city’s rich heritage and community challenges. They then were asked to develop a concept to support economic mobility in Charlotte and create a business plan to put those ideas into action. Each team presented their concept to a panel of judges, who awarded prizes to the top three teams based on the pitch. Members of those top teams each received a scholarship for the 2024 school year, guaranteed offers of a paid internship at Ally for Summer 2024, and other prizes to support their education.
The 2023 top three teams and their pitch concepts were:
First Place: N.C. A&T State University, $20,000 scholarships for each student.
The winning concept, Capital in Color Lending, utilizes AI-driven products tailored for communities of color to empower ambitions through innovative approaches for accessing capital. The two-fold financial program uses alternative credit history, non-traditional income and financial behaviors to prove credit worthiness. “Milestone Loans” offer incremental installments toward loan downpayment to instill financial discipline. “Prosperity Pathways” uses the same loan framework to finance career development through trade schools and professional certifications.
- Teco Bynum, senior computer science student from Charlotte, N.C.
- Laia Garland, senior entrepreneurship and innovation student from Charlotte, N.C.
- Nyla Ward, sophomore political science student from Charlotte, N.C.
- Javen Washington, senior accounting and finance student from Fayetteville, N.C.
Second Place: North Carolina Central University, $10,000 scholarships for each student.
In second place, the non-profit organization idea called Food 4 Thought provides budget-friendly and healthy meal solutions for lower income households. The organization aims to combat food insecurity by providing weekly ready-to-heat meals. Food 4 Thought engages with the community through events centered around healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and financial literacy. Food 4 Thought utilizes a three-tier subscription model, allowing customers to pay more as they earn more.
- Chase Bowman, junior finance student from Memphis, Tennessee
- Jordan Jackson, senior marketing student from Atlanta, Georgia
- Kyndall Ray, senior marketing student from Fayetteville, N.C.
- Zyon Rodgers, senior business administration and financial analytics student from Raleigh, N.C.
Third Place: Texas Southern University, $5,000 scholarships for each student.
The third-place concept, Queensville, is a community-centric and employee “owned” grocery store dedicated to promoting economic mobility for residents living without easy access to essential items. Queensville invests in its community by providing jobs and offers employees the option to share company profits through the wage-to-profit (W2P) program. Upon completion of financial literacy training, education and support, Queensville aims to help employees change their economic status over time.
- Quentin Bellard, sophomore computer science student from Katy, Texas
- Kendell Jenkins, sophomore English education student from Houston, Texas
- Kamaria Marshall, sophomore political science, pre-law student from Austin, Texas
- Katelayn Vault, junior public administration student from Dallas, Texas
All remaining students who competed received a $1,000 scholarship for their participation.
“Moguls in the Making is an important initiative that is helping to bridge the racial wealth gap and support high achieving students by creating opportunities to gain hands-on business experience,” says Dr. Harry L. Williams, president & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “Each year, these amazing students work together to solve a real-world challenge. They never cease to impress us with their ingenuity and initiative. We’re proud to once again partner with Ally and are thankful for the intentional work they do in amplifying incredible talent.”
Since the program’s inception in 2019, more than 250 students have participated. Ally has employed 42 of the former Moguls as interns and hired 12 of them as full-time employees across a variety of functions, including IT, marketing, product design and corporate services. To date, Ally has awarded more than $900,000 in scholarships and prizes through Moguls in the Making.
Inspiration from Real-Life Moguls
The 2023 class of Moguls was treated to surprise appearances from two real-life moguls who followed their passions and built their names in the entertainment industry, Big Sean and Terrence J. Both are admired for their creativity, philanthropic giving and business savvy.
Musician, philanthropist and entrepreneur Big Sean was instrumental in the launch of the program in 2019 and returned this year to lend his support and some advice to students on the final day of competition.
“Moguls in the Making gives HBCU students the opportunity to apply their hidden genius, which they may not get to often display in a competitive way. Students also get to meet peers from so many HBCUs, which they may not have been able to connect with in any other way, as well as communicate, have open dialogue and hopefully work together in the future. These ideas are the future of business,” says Big Sean. “After helping to launch this program in 2019 through my foundation (The Sean Anderson Foundation), I’m so proud of the work TMCF and Ally have done to empower these students and the next generation of leaders.”