Young Entrepreneurs Receive Top Honors

It should have been a moment of victory for Prince Ansong Debrah who had just won a neighborhood basketball game. Instead, the then-16-year-old found himself nursing a knife wound after being attacked by a defeated opponent. Finding relief in entrepreneurship, Debrah used the incident as inspiration to achieve his lifelong goal: social entrepreneurship.

Debrah was one of 28 young entrepreneurs honored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) at its Dare to Dream awards gala, Wednesday night. The event recognizes NFTE student members who have demonstrated unique entrepreneurial spirits, according to the global organization which creates programs, curricula and training for schools and organizations on entrepreneurship.

“Later in life I plan to open my own accounting firm and use some of the profits with that to venture into social entrepreneurship,” says the 18-year-old. “I plan to open a community organization so young people don’t end up staying out [in the streets] and having the wrong influences in their lives.”

Held in New York City, the ceremony also honored NFTE teachers as well as three companies with its 2010 Entrepreneurs of the Year award including Blue Mountain Capital Management and Wolfensohn & Co. Students honored represented NFTE branches from around the globe including New Zealand, India, and Switzerland. More than a dozen of these young money smart teens showcased their businesses, products and inventions earlier in the evening.

“Our Dare to Dream Awards Gala is one of the highlights of my year. It’s a celebration of the incredible accomplishments of the students and teachers we have chosen to honor from around the world for their hard work and entrepreneurial spirits,” says NFTE founder Steve Mariotti.

Debrah joined NFTE as a sophomore in high school after taking an entrepreneurship class. He used the business savvy he developed in the class to start Day by Day, a Yonkers, New York, company that sells customizable calendars. At $20 each, the calendars won the teenprenuer a growing clientele, selling up to 60 calendars a month.

Though Debrah began pursuing his interest in business two years prior to the knife attack, the incident inspired him to go the route of social entrepreneurship to help bring about change. He decided to attend Babson College in Massachusetts, a selective business school.

As part of one of his classes “[we’ll] visit a low income neighborhood and we’ll help the kids with their home,” he says, with hopes of opening his own community center in the future “I’m just trying to help these kids because I don’t want to see them become the kid who attacked me.”