Tyahna Arnold is a 21-year-old Glen Burnie resident and Howard University Junior majoring in political science. The Chicago transplant recently won a $10,000 scholarship as part of a five-member team that out-innovated most of the other competitors in the business pitch competition called “Moguls in the Making.”
“It’s not easy, but it’s worth it,” Arnold said in video interview Wednesday, November 3. “To any future mogul I would say put your all into it, It is the best experience educationally.”
“Moguls in the Making” was created three years ago from a partnership between Ally, a digital financial services company, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, as well as multi-platinum artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Big Sean and actor and entertainer Terrence J.
Fifty students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Howard University, North Carolina A&T State University, Florida A&M University and Spellman College competed in the competition that has awarded $215,000 in scholarships and prizes.
The competition ran September 16 through 19. Ten teams of five were created from 50 students from 10 HCBUs. They were introduced for the first time digitally on the 16th and each had to come together to help solve a specific issue in a single industry.
Industry’s included education, energy, food and nutrition, banking and finance, and entertainment and hospitality among others. Arnold described her team’s challenge.
“We basically had to bridge the gap between education and economic mobility,” she explained. “How do we make sure the next generation after us does not go into poverty?”
The college students bore down and brainstormed an idea they believed would win them first place. And then they got to work turning the idea into a reality they could present to the judges in just 72 hours.
Their solution? A website named “Funnel” that would connect students graduating high school to trade-oriented employers who were in need of quality employees.
“We helped high school students funnel into middle-skill jobs like barbering and cosmetics--all of the things you can get certificates for online,” Arnold said. “We created an actual website and showcased it for both students and employers.”
Arnold described the site as similar to Linked-In. In addition, their program would propose to educate users.
“We would teach them financial literacy so we could keep the money growing and create generational wealth,” she said.
The competition was not a cakewalk. Arnold’s Howard University team placed one spot behind North Carolina A & T State University, whose team members each won $20,000
scholarships. Their idea involved finding a way to generate power on a more local level to reduce utility costs for low-income area residents.
Arnold’s team was up till 4 a.m. at some points trying to meet the challenges that would make their business idea a viable option.
“It’s a business hack-athon,” said Natalie Brown, Ally’s director of corporate citizenship, who spearheaded the competition. “Long days and tight deadlines.”
Brown said it took around ten months for organizers to prep for the competition, Teams competing each received help from two Ally employees who acted as mentors, as well as a mentor who worked in the industry teams were competing in.
This year each of the 50 competitors were guaranteed to receive at least a $1,000 scholarship just for participating, along with the opportunity to apply for an internship at Ally. In the three years of the annual competition Ally has employed 25 interns and gone on to hire nine Mogul competitors full time.
“It’s a labor of love to do this,” Brown said. “All of our students at HBCUs bring a wealth of talent to companies like Ally.”
Through the competition Arnold hopes she’s made new friends that will stand the test of time. Their group continues to meet regularly to swap business ideas and touch base.
Although the Glen Burnie resident said she may want to invest her winnings in an Airbnb venture, the reward she values the most from the competition seems to be the contacts she’s made.
“The teamwork was amazing,” she said. “It made me want to win for my teammates more than myself. I saw how hard they worked. How they really wanted it. I don’t think any of us really slept. We just wanted to win so bad. I loved the whole process.”
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