St. Louis Student Wins NFTE's Midwest Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Competition

CHICAGO, May 25, 2023 - Global entrepreneurship education nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has named three local student businesses as the winners of its annual Midwest Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. The young entrepreneurs distinguished themselves through innovative business ideas, which they will be presenting at the national finals in New York on October 3 to compete for the National Champion title and cash prizes from a pool of $18,000.

Seven competitors will advance to the New York competition. Three finalists pitched their original business concepts to a panel of esteemed judges, Erica Devieux, Chicago Chapter President, Chicago Black Professionals Network; Jami Ellis, Vice President, New Product Planning, Horizon Therapeutics; Pramit Mehta, Assurance Partner, Ernst & Young LLP; Natalie Resteghene, Managing Director, Alliances, Slalom; and Rob Ritchie, Regional President, Ingredion, who selected a first-place winner to receive $1,500, a second-place winner to receive $1,000 and a third-place winner to receive $500.

1st Place: Kiaira Merrill of Missouri's Saint Louis Science Center with KiaKoutur, a business that collaboratively upcycles used clothing to help recycle the Earth's resources.
2nd Place: Malachi Davis and Ivan Walker of Illinois' Thornton Township High School with Nokki, an idea for an alternative sweetener that does not spike blood sugar.
3rd Place: Lacey Muñoz-Swedberg of Wisconsin's Beloit Memorial High School with StudyLair, a safe space for Beloit School District students to go year-round for tutoring, homework help or to interact with like-minded students.
"We are so proud of these brilliant young minds and in awe of their commitment to entrepreneurship and making a difference in this world," said Dr. J.D. LaRock, CEO of NFTE. "Through their creativity and original ideas, our students demonstrate the power of their generation to transform their communities. When young people are given a platform to sharpen their skills and rise to their full potential, our economy and society thrive."

The NFTE Midwest Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge was presented by Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), Horizon Therapeutics, Ingredion, and Slalom, with signature support from GSTV and associate support from the Citi Foundation.

Media contacts: Vanessa Hsia, 929-551-3813 or and Denise Berkhalter, 917-281-4362 or

About NFTE
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a global nonprofit founded in 1987, ignites the entrepreneurial mindset with unique learning experiences that empower students to own their futures. More at


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