Arabia Mountain student wins business pitch competition, returns to emcee
One DeKalb County School District (DCSD) student’s skills in business, public speaking and research have convinced Atlanta’s largest businesses to invest in her ideas, earning her a first-place finish and $1,500.
The same skills earned her a return to the competition one year later.
Arabia Mountain High School’s Asia Thurmon won Operation Hope’s Global Youth Entrepreneur Pitch competition for her business idea, the EZ Party Pack, during the 2016-2017 school year. On March 26 and 27, she returned to the competition to serve as a master of ceremonies and emcee.
Operation Hope, Inc. is an American non-profit organization that provides financial literacy empowerment and economic education. Each year, the nonprofit hosts a three-day conference as well as a competition tasking local youth with pitching a business plan to CEOs.
Thurmon pitched to CEOs from Gallup, Huntington Bank, Operation Hope, Inc., and Ariel Investments. Her audience consisted of such heavy hitters as Roland Martin, Andrew Young and Chris Gardner, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the 2006 film, The Pursuit of Happyness.
“Only a short time ago were some of the products and services you’re seeing in the mind’s eye of a child,” said Staci Glenn Short, senior vice president at Huntington National Bank at the 2017 competition. “This is what happens when a child takes that idea and runs with it.”
As DCSD’s first participant and winner, Thurmon wowed the competition and won unanimously with the EZ Party Pack, which takes care of all party needs in one package. The business offers a basic package, a “flare” package which adds “thank you” cards, and an ultimate package which includes a piñata.
“All we need is a package type and a theme and all your worries are gone,” Thurmon said during the competition.
Thurmon is a product of DeKalb County and DCSD. Before arriving at Arabia Mountain, she attended Snapfinger Elementary and Champion Theme Middle schools. In 2015, she participated in a summer program with Operation Hope, where she claims she was bitten by the business bug.
“Operation Hope introduced me to entrepreneurship and financial dignity,” Thurmon said. “They asked us to come up with a business idea. Some people took it lightly, but I took it and ran with it.”
Thurmon originally developed the EZ Party Pack while working with local nonprofit, The Covenant House of Georgia. She raised money delivering party supplies, and soon thought to herself, “I can do this.”
“Why not take the pressure off of other parents’ shoulders and make this a business?” Thurmon said she asked herself. “I like having fun and I feel like I bring a lot to the table when it comes to decorations.
The most important part of developing a business plan is the budget, she said. By knowing how to spend, when to spend, and what the limitations are, she said any business can be viable. She said it’s also important to know one’s target market, so that a product can be appropriately developed.
Thurmon continued to perfect her business plan further, eventually earning $500 in 2016 at a smaller business pitch competition, also organized by Operation Hope. By 2017, the EZ Party Pack was so fully developed that it earned her victory in the Global Youth Entrepreneur Pitch competition.
“It was a lot of fun. It was scary at first, but the crowd was feeding off my energy and very positive,” Thurmon said. “We practiced a lot. I started out shy—but you have to be excited about your own business. If you’re not excited as the owner, no one else will be.”
With the $1,500 earned, Thurmon purchased advertising materials to help grow the EZ Party Pack. She has continued to work with Operation Hope to help market her business, which has provided parties to many families throughout metro Atlanta. She has also been able to give back to The Covenant House of Georgia.
Since winning the competition, Thurmon has appeared on talk shows, met celebrities and been able to grow her business. As last year’s winner, Thurmon was also awarded the honor of emcee at the 2018 Global Youth Entrepreneur Pitch competition.
“It was an honor; it was amazing to look at people, judge them, and watch them grow on stage,” Thurmon said. “It’s also great to see other ideas. Operation Hope has done a lot for me. They’ve provided me an opportunity to showcase my business many times, which has led to many sales.”
For more information on Operation Hope’s Global Youth Entrepreneur program, visit www.operationhope.org.