Intro by: Sylvia McKinney, NFTE Philadelphia  Executive Director
NFTE Philadelphia is busy getting back into the routine of school, but last year’s regional challenge winners are also busy. They’re prepping for next month’s NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge . Both young entrepreneurs who will represent the Philadelphia program office, Raleigh Russell and Dominique Hughes, share their paths to success.
From: Raleigh Russell
Honestly, I really was not interested in business until I enrolled in a business class at my high school. I thought that NFTE stood for National Fitness Training Exercise program. Wow, was I surprised on my first day of class. Not only do I now know what NFTE stands for, I also – and more importantly – know how to start a business. This would not have been possible without my enthusiastic teacher, Korie Muscolino. I am very glad that I choose this course, because I know now that it will benefit me in the future.
I decided on a business after I went to New York City on a business trip funded by NFTE. The main focus of the trip was to purchase wholesale products and sell such products at school. While I was in New York, I noticed Zodiac Bands and Slap Watches, bendable bands with a watch face that can be customized. I was fascinated by them and purchased 180 with my partner Stephan Johnson. At our school’s selling event, we sold them all in three hours. By doing this, I caught the bug and the idea to develop a business plan, and I knew I would enter the regional competition.
I shared my plans with my teacher, who also encouraged me to help others, even when competing against them, because these networks can be of real value to you in the future. Ms. Muscolino required my classmates and me to present our business plans countless times and gave us all feedback. From all of the critiquing from my classmates and her, I worked hard to correct errors and figured out how to improve my presentation.
When I won first place in the regional competition, I felt amazing. My parents and grandparents, even my little sister, are proud of me. I know that all of that hard work paid off. The volunteers make this a phenomenal experience. Without their help, I know that I would not be where I am today. Everyone that has helped me to get where I am today inspires me to give back too. I am ready to compete at the October 11 national competition in New York City! Check out my Elevator Pitch Video at www.elevatorpitch2012.com  and vote for me!
From: Dominique Hughes, CEO, Center of Attraction Traveling Salon
For me, choosing the entrepreneurship course at my school was like picking a wonderful surprise out of a hat with a colorful blindfold on. I didn't put much thought into the decision when I decided to take the course. I knew little about what it took to be an entrepreneur. I never thought about starting my own company. I never imagined myself as a businessperson. But, I can honestly say that choosing the road towards entrepreneurship was one of the best decisions I've made so far in my life.
Although my decision to take the course was a breeze, deciding on a business idea was not as easy task. When I was presented with the challenge to create my business plan, I had tons of ideas, from selling males underwear to offering flavored ice cream after dinner. Because they were all great ideas, it was impossible for me to settle on one. Until I realized that what I really love to do is make people feel beautiful. And, I am darn good at it. So, I turned a hobby that I had been doing for a long time for free into what I think could be a million-dollar business.
My transformation from an ordinary student to an entrepreneur wasn't easy. There were times when I thought I’d never understand the work, times when I doubted my potential, and times when I was ready to quit. During those times of doubt, my entrepreneurship teacher, Mrs. Courtney Fulton, guided me when I needed encouragement. She pushed me when I needed to be pushed and never accepted anything but my best work. She is always there for me and uses her personal time, if needed, to help me out. She is invested in my success and I truly believe that I wouldn't have made it this far without her guidance. She is the ideal role model and a huge inspiration.
Winning a spot to compete in the national championship is amazing. It really feels good to know that outstanding business leaders from my community recognized how hard I worked and believed in my business idea. The most satisfying part is having Mrs. Fulton and my loved ones so proud of my accomplishments. The NFTE staff has given me unconditional support throughout my journey, and I don't think I’ll ever be able to describe how grateful I am to NFTE for giving me this chance. The NFTE course changed my life and giving me a brighter future. NFTE has shaped me into an independent African- American woman and shown me that I was born to own my course of success.
I am ready to compete at the October 11th national competition in New York City! Check out my Elevator Pitch Video at www.elevatorpitch2012.com  and vote for me!
NFTE program offices are providing regular updates this school year. Look for a "Local Perspective" update next Monday.