2017 Southern Regional Conference and Exhibition Recap

November 20-21, 2017
LeConte Event Center
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Key Stats

  • 1,617 total attendees
  • 72 schools
  • 92 firms
  • 13 competitions (including Business Plan)
  • 7 states (Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee)

Competition Results

Southern Regional Business Plan Competition

Representing Tennessee

  1. Elysium, Bearden High School
  2. AuNaturale Spa and Hair, Inc., Oakland High School
  3. Extreme Adventures, East Hamilton High School
  4. The Animal Kingdom, Inc., Loretto High School
  5. Alpha and Omega, Lawrence County High School
  6. Kutt Loose, Siegel High School

Representing Missouri

  1. Global Goodies, Parkway West High School
  2. Arrow Shipping, Parkway South High School
  3. VIVID+, Parkway West High School

Congratulations to all the winners, and to Global Goodies, Elysium, and AuNaturale Spa and Hair, Inc who will be going to the 2018 National Business Plan Competition!

Results for Top 10 teams in Advanced Website, Booth Design, Company Branding, Company Newsletter, E-Commerce Website, Elevator Pitch, Human Resources, Impact Marketing, Marketing, Sales Materials, Salesmanship, and Video Commercial can be found at the Competitions Results page.

View Competition Results


Social Media Contest Winners

Bucket List, Waubonsie Valley High School, Aurora, IL

For a comprehensive overview of their firm’s conference and exhibition experience:

VIVID+, Parkway West High School, Chesterfield, MO

For their great timelapse of the exhibition space and all the booths:

The Cozy Company, Stewarts Creek High School, Smyrna, TN

For their wonderful behind-the-scenes video of their class trip:

Thank You to Our Judges

On behalf of the VEI, we would like to say a big thank you to the following individuals who helped with the judging of the business plan competitions and all the live competitions the day of the conference and exhibition. The success of the conference would not have happened without their help.

Jutta Bangs, Director TSBDC Oak Ridge, TN
Richard Bettis, Sr. Commercial Loan Officer, Highland Union Bank
Doyle Boyd
Cliff Claudell, President, Greater Knoxville Score Chapter
Holly Cross
Felicia Demos, CFO, Demos’ Restaurants
Bruce Hayes, Director, Tennessee Small Business Development Center
Stephen Jenkins, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center
Tabitha King, Regal Title, LLC
Christopher Salute, Asst. Dean, Long Island University Global
Laura Overstreet, Sr. Business Specialist, TSBDC
Teresa Sylvia, Business Specialist, TSBDC
Mary Metz
Doug Minter, Knoxville Chamber Director of Small Business Development
Judi Molla
Linda Ousley, Former VE facilitator
Amy Pangelinan, Market President, Highland Union Bank
Pam Thurman, CTE Core Consultant
Christy Seals
Vanessa Thompson

NY Daily News: “Academy of Finance and Enterprise’s family atmosphere helps students achieve success”

Students Brandon Prenz (left) and Entasa Chowdhury (right) in class at the Academy of Finance and Enterprise. (Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

A Unique Class to Prepare Students for the Real-World

“One of the most unique classes the academy offers is the Virtual Enterprise program, which gives students the opportunity to run their own virtual company. Seniors Brandon Prenz and Entasa Chowdhury are in a class that manages Headstart Advisers, a virtual financial firm that deals with stocks and personal financial literacy for their clients. The class prepares students for the real world — something the 17-year-olds say gives them confidence and virtual experience that they turn into jobs.”

Esha Ray and Reuven Blau, “Academy of Finance and Enterprise’s family atmosphere helps students achieve success,” New York Daily News

Read the full article here.

Apply Now for the 2018 VE Venture Challenge

From Simulation to Startup

The purpose of the VE Venture Challenge is to allow VE students to pitch their unique real business concept to a panel of leading entrepreneurs — who are titans in their industry — at VEI’s annual Gala on April 18, 2018 in New York City. Budding entrepreneurs will be able to transform their concepts into viable businesses through mentorship, education, financial support, and real-world business opportunities.

View the VE Venture Challenge Presentations at the 2017 Gala

Application Process

Round 1: Preliminary Round

Teams of 1-3 students may apply to enter the Challenge. The designated team leader must complete the online application found below. The application consists of relevant business questions and a one-minute Video Pitch, which must be submitted by 5:00 PM, Friday, January 5, 2018.

Round 1 entries will be evaluated by VEI staff, who will provide feedback and might ask for clarifying questions. All entries will be kept confidential. After VEI staff reviews Round 1 submissions, ten (10) semi-finalist teams will be selected to advance to Round 2 and will be notified by January 19, 2018.

Round 1 Video Pitch Guidelines: 

The 60-second video pitch should include the following information.

  • An engaging introduction.
  • The problem that the product/service is trying to solve.
  • How the product/service is going to solve the problem.
  • A description of the potential customers.
  • Why the product/service is better than those of the competition.
  • Why their team is the best to lead the company to success.

Sample Video Pitches:

Apply Now for VE Venture Challenge

Round 2: Semi-Final Round

The ten (10) semi-finalist teams will be asked to provide more detail about their business idea by February 8, 2018. Three (3) finalist teams will be selected to advance to the Final Round and will be notified by February 15, 2018.

Final Round: 2018 Gala Presentations

The three (3) finalist teams will be invited to give their pitch presentations at the Gala on April 18, 2018 in New York City. Finalist teams must commit to work with mentors (through Skype) to refine their presentation leading up to the Challenge.

Final Round Pitch Presentation Guidelines:

  • Distributing material, samples and/or prototypes is permitted and encouraged.
  • PowerPoint slides (up to 4 slides) or audio/ video assistance is allowed.
  • Each presenter will be given a few minutes to answer questions from the judges.
  • The presentation pitch may not exceed 3 minutes.

The VE Venture Challenge will enable you to turn your real business idea into reality!

Venture Challenge Timeline

  • January 5, 2018: Submit Round 1 application by 5:00 PM.
  • January 19, 2018: Ten (10) semi-finalist teams will be selected to advance to Round 2.
  • February 8, 2018: Semi-finalists submit Round 2 application by 5:00 PM.
  • February 15, 2018: Three (3) finalist teams will be selected to advance to the Final Round.
  • February – April 2018: Teams will practice their pitch presentations with VEI staff and industry professionals.
  • April 18, 2018: Three (3) finalist teams will give their pitch presentations at the Gala.

Awards & Prizes

Finalist teams will be eligible to win prize money (to advance their concept), scholarships, and a one-year membership in a co-working and/or incubator space. Transportation and lodging costs to New York City will be provided to finalist teams not taking part in the YBS.

Judging Criteria

Judges for each round will evaluate the teams as real-world entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from investors. The businesses will be judged on the following criteria: viability, scalability (growth potential), team, innovation, and pitching skills. Businesses will be ranked based on which company the judges would most likely invest in.

Before submitting an idea, be sure to research whether or not your product and/or service already exists. However, you may submit an idea that improves upon an existing product and/or service.

Research Tips:

  1. Conduct a Google search to see if your idea exists.
  2. Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database to see if your product idea has been submitted for a patent.

2017 VE Venture Challenge Winner

Miguel McKelvey, Co-Founder, Chief Creative Officer, WeWork, presenting check to Liza T.

Presenter: Liza Tarakanova
Parkway West HS, Ballwin, MO

Liza T. from Parkway West High School in Missouri won the inaugural VE Venture Challenge, securing $10,000 in seed funding as well as a 1-year membership at WeWork Labs as she works to launch TredBed, a business venture that will help revolutionize the medical industry.

Titan Entrepreneurs of the 2017 VE Venture Panel

Gregg Fisher, Founder & Head of Quantitative Research & Portfolio Strategy, Gerstein Fisher
Miguel McKelvey, Co-Founder, Chief Creative Officer, WeWork
Jeffrey Taylor, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Digital Risk
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder, Fitz, Glamsquad, & Gilt

VE Teachers Collaborate, Learn, and Network at 2017 National Teachers Conference


During the week of July 10th, 2017, over 130 teachers from across the U.S. gathered together at LIU Post to share advice, discuss the future of work, and learn the essentials of facilitating a VE class at the third annual National Teachers Conference.

Career Readiness Framework

Nick Chapman, President and National Program Director, covered how VE will be implementing the Career Readiness Framework, a comprehensive way to capture key competencies and skills employers seek and students need for success.

Review the Career Readiness Framework here.

Conference Sessions

This year’s National Teachers Conference had a range of helpful professional development sessions and collaborative roundtables. We would like to thank all the coordinators who volunteered to share their wisdom, experience, and knowledge as facilitators for these sessions.

Session TitleFacilitator(s)
Methods of FacilitationKendra Lee, VE Illinois State Coordinator and Wendy Schmitt, VE Great Lakes Regional Director
VE-JV Career Academy: 7th Grade Activity Map & Lessons/Introduction to CanvasMaria Frangella, VE-JV facilitator, MS 137 (NYC), Joanna Gillen, VE-JV facilitator, and William McKinley JHS (NYC)
Business Plan Basics For New VE TeachersAmy Demchak, VE facilitator, Westhampton HS (NY)
A Look at VE Competitions: Rubrics, Results, and the FutureNick Chapman, President and National Program Director, VEI
VE-JV Career Academy: 8th Grade Activity Map & LessonsFrank Bennici, VE-JV facilitator, MS 137 America’s School of Heroes (NYC), Joanna Gillen, VE-JV 7th & 8th Grade facilitator, and William McKinley JHS (NYC)
Making the Sale!Julie Levi, President, Progressive Promotions, Inc.
Basics of Accounting in VETeri Jones, Southern California Regional Director, VEI
Creating a Competitive Company WebsiteJenny Benack, VE facilitator, Morris Knolls HS (NJ)
Hashtags & Retweets & Endorsements...Oh My!Tyler Fugazzie, Marketing & Communications Manager, VEI and Abril Peña, VE Fellow, VEI
Human Resources SolutionsJoni Fulton, VE facilitator, Murrieta Valley HS (CA)
Encouraging Student-Led PD SessionsBrenda Bechtol, VE facilitator, Oscar A. Carlson HS (MI), and Teresa Millican, VE facilitator, Airport HS (MI)
Incorporating Personal Finance into Your VE FirmAlan Gersten, VE facilitator, Century HS (CA)
Engaging Your Local CommunityJaci Elliot, VE facilitator, Centennial HS (CA)
Featured PresentationDane Stangler, Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship, LIU with Rob Valli, Dean, College of Management, LIU Post
Contagion: Fighting Back Against SenioritisIsai Serrano, VE facilitator, Manhattan Business Academy (NYC)
Preparing for a Trade ShowMike Silberman, VE facilitator, West Hempstead HS (NY)
Afternoon Roundtables: The Commons, Accounting & Finance, Administration, Sales & Marketing, Human Resources, VE-JV, Generation VE: Collab-A-ThonBrenda Bechtol, MI; Jenny Benack, NJ; Robin Buckles, CA; Rich Butzke, NY (Long Island); Amy Demchak, NY (Long Island); Jaci Elliott, CA; Joni Fulton, CA; Alan Gersten, CA; Darrell Iki, CA; Kathy McCoy, TN; Teresa Millican, MI; Chris Power, NY (NYC); Isai Serrano, NY (NYC); Mike Silberman, NY (Long Island); Kaye Sommer, MI



Insight from the VE Judges’ Panel

What are judges most focused on during Business Plan Competitions? What makes a business plan presentation team stand out? What’s the most common mistake presenters make?

We gathered four industry professionals who have served as VE competition judges to answer these questions and more. Watch Paul Stanley, Manager of Community Investments at HSBC, Ritu Banga, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Zoomdojo, Jack Powers, Director at International Informatics Institute, and Alexandra Van Arkel, Senior Manager at NBCUniversal shared their perspectives on extraordinary competition performance, professionalism, and what students need to succeed.

Enjoyed the video? Watch more videos from the National Teachers Conference on our Facebook page!

Thank you to all the teachers that joined us at the third annual National Teachers Conference. We hope everyone has a great school year, whether this is your first or your fifteenth. Special thank you to WeWork for showing the future of work, Cisco for inspiration, and HSBC for supporting VE ambition. Thank you to Dr. Cline and the entire LIU Post team for helping make this conference happen.

Virtual Enterprise students visit New York City | www.personcountylife.com | Courier Times

High School Virtual Enterprise students attended the Youth Business Summit in New York City on April 3 – 6, hosted by the National Virtual Enterprise office,Virtual Enterprise teacher Tara Hubbard said the summit “allowed 4,300 students from over 40 countries to come together to create and sell a virtual product at an international trade fair.

Source: Virtual Enterprise students visit New York City | www.personcountylife.com | Courier Times

Virtual business; real experience | Bakersfield Life | bakersfield.com

The CrossFit-affiliated workout facility and healthy meal provider’s sales topped off at $18,000 – well short of its monthly goal. After redirecting its focus on marketing, the Bakersfield-based business bounced back and made $80,000 in March.

Source: Virtual business; real experience | Bakersfield Life | bakersfield.com

Hewlett High’s virtual enterprise team finishes fifth | Herald Community Newspapers | liherald.com

ROC Security, a virtual enterprise firm run by Hewlett High School seniors that “sells” residential, online, commercial and personal security products took fifth place at the 2017 Virtual Enterprise International Youth Business Summit in Manhattan from April 3-5.

Source: Hewlett High’s virtual enterprise team finishes fifth | Herald Community Newspapers | liherald.com

Greer HS Virtual Enterprise Class gets top finish in the country, Hannon and Henderson win Gold in Salesmanship | GreerToday.com

The Greer High School Virtual Enterprise Class finished in a top group of 28 in the Business Plan Competition at the 2017 Virtual Enterprise Youth Business Summit in New York City.Greer was among 400 schools from 16 states to compete at the competition.

Source: Greer HS Virtual Enterprise Class gets top finish in the country, Hannon and Henderson win Gold in Salesmanship | GreerToday.com

Celebrating 2017 National Volunteer Week


From serving as competition judges, to providing marketing advice, to making connections to real-world professionals and opportunities, volunteers play hundreds of different roles in order to help transform VE students into business professionals. In honor of the 2017 National Volunteer Week, we proudly feature stories shared by VE participants to recognize some of the people who generously contribute their time and talents to help VE students succeed.

Jump to a story

Bakersfield Local Business Partners – Building The Pyramid with strong support
Felicia Demos – Serving students with restaurant business expertise
Doug Haaland – Providing inspiration about insurance
Naomi Hogarty – Producing quality commercials and quality students
Amy Owens – Keeping students up-to-date about HR
Roosevelt High School VE Students – Saving the community during tax season
Dean Scheske – Proving how volunteers are incredible assets
Tom Smith – Leading a team of Deloitte volunteers to mentor VE students
Mike Stepanovich – Energizing California students
Burt Wallerstein – Helping make winning business pitches
Douglas Weber – Dedicating years of service to students

Bakersfield Local Business Partners

Building The Pyramid with strong support

Numerous local business partners including Muscle Grub, CrossFit OD, and Fit Pantry helped support VE by helping conduct interviews, reviewing student resumes and cover letters, mentoring VE company The Pyramid’s CFO, reviewing the company’s financials, reviewing the company’s business plan, listening to the business plan presentation and practicing Q&A with the business plan team, volunteering as judges at the California State Trade Show, allowing students to visit their businesses, sharing real world knowledge, and financially supporting Trade Show field trips.

“We are so thankful to all the volunteers that support Centennial Virtual Business! We couldn’t do it without you! Thank you!”

Jaci Elliott, VE coordinator, Centennial High School, Bakersfield, CA

Be like Bakersfield’s businesses and join the transformation

Felicia Demos

Understanding VE’s mission and helping students

Felicia Demos, CFO, Demos’ Restaurants, has shared her knowledge and expertise with the VE students in Tennessee for over a decade. Ms. Demos has been a leading judge for numerous VE business plan competitions locally and nationally. She truly believes in VEI and is always available to mentor, judge competitions, or just speak with students.

“We are truly fortunate to have a businesswoman that understands VE’s mission and continues to support and help our teachers and students. Thank you Felicia Demos!”

Cindy Boyd, Midwest and Southern VE Regional Director

Be like Felicia and join the transformation

Doug Haaland

Providing inspiration about insurance

A parent of a former VE CEO, Doug Haaland, Mid-South Regional President, Humana Inc., has been a mentor for Bearden High School’s VE program for 5 years. Mr. Haaland’s engagement helped inspire Bearden’s VE company Vitality, Inc to become an insurance brokerage firm.

“Doug Haaland has been a great mentor by sharing his experience and knowledge of the healthcare industry. My students gain a more thorough understanding of the industry and they also are able to brainstorm ideas with his help and he continues to challenge them each year through interactive mentoring sessions.”

Kathy McCoy, VE Coordinator, Bearden High School, Knoxville, TN

Be like Doug and join the transformation

Naomi Hogarty

Producing quality commercials and quality students

Naomi Hogarty, Owner, 91 East Productions, has been a true inspiration for the VE students at Westhampton Beach High School for the past four years. Naomi’s long-term mentoring relationship with the VE technology departments has enabled students to produce professional quality commercials for their VE companies. Ms. Hogarty has brought students on tours of MTV, VH1 and ESPN studios in New York City. She is president of Westhampton Beach High School PTO, has served as a member of Westhampton Beach High School’s Business Advisory Board for over 10 years, and organizes the annual Earth Day event at Quogue Wildlife Refuge.

“What is most admirable about Naomi’s mentoring style, is her ability to challenge students to meet their own greatest potentials. Instead of giving them ideas and showing them video footage to use, Naomi instructs students to brainstorm ideas and find clips to present to her in the form of a storyboard for their commercials. Working collaboratively with the students through a series of after school meetings at her studio, Naomi offers guidance and advice to our aspiring producers, videographers, and graphic designers, aiding them in the production of professional quality videos.”

Amy Demchak, VE Coordinator, Westhampton Beach High School, Westhampton Beach, NY

Be like Naomi and join the transformation

Amy Owens

Keeping students up-to-date about HR

Amy Owens, VP of Human Resources, Twining, Inc., is responsible for her company’s organizational and employee development. She brings over fifteen years of experience to the table and her expertise includes business leadership, talent acquisition, employment practices, workforce planning, benefits & compensation, and employment relations. Over the past two years, Amy has spent many hours volunteering and working closely with VE students from all over Orange County, California. She has led HR Workshops for Student Leadership Training events, kept students up to date on current laws that affect business, reviewed and provided valuable feedback regarding Employee Manuals of several VE firms, and worked with small groups of students to personally train them on how to handle various HR scenarios that could arise within their firms.

“Amy is the perfect model of a successful industry professional partnership with VEI and we couldn’t be more appreciative of her kindness, generosity, and time.”

Carri Valdez, VE Coordinator, Millikan High School, Long Beach, CA

Be like Amy and join the transformation

Roosevelt High School VE Students

Saving the community during tax season

VE students themselves serve as volunteers by providing tax services every Saturday from February to April to low income, elderly, and disabled members of their community. These students train from November to January to become certified in the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. IRS employees train the students and help oversee the process during tax season. Students do intake, interviews, and help members of their community file income taxes electronically.


“The people of our neighborhood are very low income and so are my students; we have 100% free lunch program at our school. It is a way they can give back and learn a very valuable skill. I am so proud of all they do.”

Linda Jean Voth, VE coordinator, Business & Finance Academy, Roosevelt High School, Fresno, CA

Be like Roosevelt’s students and join the transformation

Dean Scheske

Proving how volunteers are incredible assets 

Dean Scheske from Interim Accounting Solutions has been volunteering to help VE firm Dexacorp from Lakeland High School to establish sound accounting practices for three years. Dean has also been an incredible asset to Mavco, Inc., the VE firm at Milford High School.

“Dean has helped the Accounting Department so much this year from helping us create a new and better general ledger to reviewing our financials and dedicating his time to answer questions over the phone or by email, and even by coming to our class. We really appreciate that he takes time out of his day for us.”

Brett Carne, Dexacorp’s VP of Accounting

Contributed by Wendy Schmitt, VE Michigan State Coordinator; Lakeland High School Coordinator

Be like Dean and join the transformation

Tom Smith

Leading a team of Deloitte volunteers to mentor VE students

Tom Smith, Director at Deloitte & Touche, leads a team of volunteers from Deloitte who mentor students from Imagination, Inc. at the HS of Arts, Imagination & Inquiry once a week on a number of aspects of their business. They have been integral in helping the entire company deeply understand aspects of their business model and have mentored them on their business plan presentation as well.

“Deloitte volunteers have been working with VE for nearly 20 years and also mentor students at Ft. Hamilton High School. Tom Smith is a great friend to VE and the students we serve. All of this great work could not have been possible without Joe Delaney, former Deloitte partner, who began the VE/Deloitte volunteer program and continues to work with the students to develop the skills they need to be successful in the next phase of their lives.”

Iris Blanc, Executive Director, VEI

Be like Tom and join the transformation

Mike Stepanovich

Energizing California students

Mike Stepanovich is Centennial High School’s VE business mentor. He has helped judge VE competitions for many years would and recently started helping The Pyramid by meeting with the team after school, providing feedback on their business plan presentation, and connecting the students to community members to help with fundraising for attending the 2017 National Business Plan Competition.

“Mike is overall just a positive support for our VE program. Thank you so much for all of your help Mike! We really appreciate you!”

Jaci Elliott, VE coordinator, Centennial High School, Bakersfield, CA

Be like Mike and join the transformation

Burt Wallerstein

Helping make winning business pitches

Burt Wallerstein, Business Model and Brand Developer, Fastrax Marketing; SCORE mentor, has been a member of the VE NYC Advisory Board and has served as a judge in local and national business plan competitions for many years. Mr. Wallerstein most recently served as a mentor for the VE Venture Challenge and helped guide VE student Liza Tarakanova to a win a $10,000 award and 1-year membership at WeWork Labs to help her launch TredBed, a business venture that will help revolutionize the medical industry.

“Burt was a huge help to me this year. I was first introduced to him when I made it to the third round of the VEI Venture Challenge. We had about six conference calls working to perfect my pitch and figure out exactly what my business was and where I was hoping for it to go in the future. His knowledge, expertise, and cold hard truth really does help him live up to his nickname of a ‘nicer Mr. Wonderful’. He was an amazing influence and a great adviser, and I am grateful that I got a chance to meet him!”

Liza Tarakanova, Parkway West High School, Ballwin, MO

Be like Burt and join the transformation

Douglas Weber

Dedicating years of service to students 

Douglas Weber, Senior Vice President, Group Manager of Comerica Bank interviews Roosevelt High School’s VE CEO candidates every year for the last 15 to 16 years. Doug has brought members of Comerica’s management team to help interview candidates for management-level positions. He has brought the Roosevelt High School management team to the Comerica Office to present their Business Plans and Comerica has generously donated finances to Roosevelt High School’s VE program over the years.

“I am so grateful for Doug Weber and my whole advisory team. We could not do this job without them.”

Linda Voth, Roosevelt High School, Fresno, CA

Be like Douglas and join the transformation

2017 Bay Area Entrepreneurship Conference and Trade Show Recap

On March 26-27, 2017, a total of 60 schools came together to participate in the Bay Area Entrepreneurship Conference and Trade Show in Oakland, California.

Key Stats

  • 1200 total attendees
  • 60 schools
  • 79 firms
  • 1112 students
  • 98 volunteers
  • 8 Trade Show competitions

Special thanks to: Napa Valley College, California Community Colleges Doing What Matters for Small Business – North Bay, East Bay, Mid-Peninsula and Silicon Valley Regions.


Results for top teams in the Company Branding, Elevator Pitch, Financial Statements Challenge, Human Resources Scenarios, Marketing Plan, Sustainable Revenue Business Plan, Video Commercial, and WOW Factor can be found at the Competitions Results page.

View Competition Results