Skip to main content

MB News

Young Entrepreneurs Pitch Businesses; Winner Selected

Apr 14, 2023 05:18PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The YEA! Young Entrepreneurs Class of 2023, with their advisors and the investors' panel.

With companies ranging from an e-bike accessories store to a kids' party service, the student entrepreneurs from the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) pitched their business plans to prominent local leaders this week.

The "Shark Tank"-style event marked the culmination of six month's worth of development and high-level business tutorials for local middle and high school students who have participated in the YEA! program since last fall.

Eighteen students presented a total of 16 business ideas to the panel, seeking real money to start their business. Each student had four minutes to outline his or her business idea, the competition, marketing plans, and their financing strategy.

The pitches included a variety of ideas, from products to services. Some students have designed their businesses to be local while others plan to take the business online and make it available well beyond the Beach Cities.

Lila Mokhtari presents her Maji soap company.

First place went to Lila Mokhtari, a 9th grader at Mira Costa, for her company Maji that makes "motivational" soap products for kids. (Maji means water in Swahili.) The clear soaps each have a collectible toy inside.

Mokhtari was awarded $1,250 to help launch her company, and will represent YEA at the national Saunders Scholars Competition in June.

Second place went to Xavier Montenegro (pictured at left), a 6th grader from Lawndale who attends MBMS.

His company, Xavier's Better Butter, offers fresh, artisanal, and planet-friendlycompound butters with "Xtreme Global Flavors."

Montenegro gave the judges a chance to sample his Garlic & Herb, Spicy Sesame, and Caramel Coffee flavors. He also won $1,250 from the investors to help launch his company.

This year's judging panel included Manhattan Beach Mayor Pro Tem Joe Franklin; Gerry Morton, president of the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club, Alison Lent, customer relations manager at Manhattan Beach Toyota, Latrice McGlothin, executive director of the Kinecta Community Foundation, and Kelly Stroman, managing director of the Friendship Foundation.

Students Pitch 16 Business Ideas

The students and their businesses (in order of presentation) included:

Lila Mokhtari (9th grade, Mira Costa High School) - Maji, a line of "motivational soaps" to encourage young kids to wash their hands. The soaps are clear with a collectible toy inside.

Yona Karp and Dylan Sencer (11th grade, MCHS) - Sensory, a line of streetwear athletic clothing that can be personalized. 

Lua Rocha (8th grade, American Martyrs School) -  Ideas to Reality, an online service through which customers can order a set of inspirational images for room design. 

Chase Mader (6th grade, Manhattan Beach Middle School) - Bike Box, a company that sells e-bike accessories, including a turn signal, a phone holder, and LED lights for wheels.

Xavier Montenegro (6th grade, MBMS) - Xavier's Better Butter, a company that makes handcrafted sweet and savory compound butters.

Bliss Dawson (7th grade, MBMS) - Jewelry Joy, an artistic hanging rack to organize and display jewelry.

Maxwell Chang (6th grade, MBMS) - Better than Belly Rubs, hypoallergenic dog squeaky toys made from alpaca wool.

Austin Lee (11th grade, MCHS) - Music from Manhattan, a nonprofit online service designed to help elementary students and their parents understand different instruments when deciding which one to play. 

Connor He and Kellan Lee (7th grade, MBMS) - Classic Kids Catering, a party service that will bring food, drinks, and supplies to a party while allowing parents to relax and enjoy the party. 

Bryce Nicholson (10th grade, MCHS) - Swing House, golf training equipment that allows golfers to practice their swing indoors. 

Ethan Rickett (10th grade, Chadwick) - Shupaq, a backpack with perforated side pockets that allows athletes to carry their shoes separately from other items inside the main portion of the backpack.

Rafferty Wright (6th grade, MBMS) - Stuffed Proper, waterproof bags designed to hold and store stuffed animals.

Myles Idrovo (12th grade, MCHS) - Tutor Titans, a tutoring service designed to help local students prepare for the SATs. 

Jake Lerner (10th grade, MCHS) - SpareE, a backup battery that can be mounted to an ebike to provide backup charge if and when the main battery runs down.

Annabel Lin (6th grade, MBMS) - Food Dragon, a web platform to help immigrant-owned businesses with translation and advertising to promote their businesses. 

Brodie Fix (11th grade, Loyola High School) - Gutsy, a company that will collect stuffed animals and either sterilize them for donation, or remove the stuffing and re-use it in other products.

YEA! Assists Students with Business Development

YEA! is a 501(c)3 offering classes and workshops that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce runs the local Young Entrepreneurs Academy class each year starting in the fall. (The program tuition is $895.)

"YEA! began with 32-plus applicants, whittled down to a class of 24," said YEA! program manager Vesta Sung. "During the year, students discovered just how much dedication a start-up business requires, and they wrestled with academic and other extracurricular priorities. Proudly, we have 18 self-starting students who successfully pitched to investors, have been awarded funds, and will graduate as YEA Class of 2023."

Manhattan Beach Mayor Pro Tem Joe Franklin talks with 2023 YEA! winner Lila Mokhtari.


During the nine-month program, students meet for three hours once a week after school to learn all the strategies for creating and starting their own legal business. Students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own fully formed companies and social movements.

Scholarships are provided by Manhattan Beach Rotary. Investors include Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Manhattan Beach Toyota, and Manhattan Beach Rotary. Sponsors who provided facilities and services include Kinecta, Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, the city of Manhattan Beach, MBUSD, Manhattan Repro, MB Postal, and Redondo MinuteMan Press.

The YEA! program has has 50+ volunteer professionals and organizations that support the students (mentors, designers, speakers, CEO panel, business plan reviewers, mock investors, investor panelists, etc.) to help them acquire the tools they need to succeed.

And in addition to Sung, the YEA! leadership team includes instructor Rachel Thomas and program support from Ro Schreiner.

"In short, YEA! takes a village," said Sung.

Winner Will Compete Nationally

At the end of each program, one student is chosen to go on and compete on the national level. Last year's winner, Dallas Nurre, who was a Manhattan Beach Middle School 6th grader at the time, went on to earn 3rd place in the national competition for his wearable sling for pet reptiles. He won a $1000 cash prize and a $20,000 scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today's youth and tomorrow's future leaders. For more information, visit

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format