A team of four Grambling State University students recently arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, on an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the “Moguls in the Making” competition presented by The Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s (TMCF) Innovation and Entrepreneur (I&E) program, Ally Financial and the Sean Anderson Foundation.
TMCF and Ally Financial selected 15 HBCUs to participate in the “Moguls in the Making” competition to find the best and brightest entrepreneurial minds.
GSU students include education major Katrice McMullen, Brendan Nzoma, a CIS major minoring in Data Analytics), history major Darielle Clark, and CIS major Alesia Jackson (CIS).
The competing teams will be tasked with developing solutions to economic problems facing various industries and then pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges composed of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The selection of teams started with interested students submitting applications and then participating in virtual interviews explaining why they were interested in the competition and entrepreneurship.
“We also had to present a platform on why we thought Grambling students would be a good fit and actually benefit from being in the program,” said McMullen, the lead student for GSU’s team.
Applicants also had to record videos doing a short speech about themselves and then were chosen from there.
“It’s crazy because none of us really knew each other well before we got into this program,” McMullen said. “I am not a business major or anything like that, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to be in that kind of environment. But I saw the opportunity and read up on it and thought it would be cool to work to come up with plans for the betterment of another community. That’s how we really got into it.”
The teams know they will be working on project development for the city of Charlotte and creating things that will help the city draw different people and industries to the area.
“We’ll be working on some ideas the city can use to help the community and help the city move forward,” McMullen said.
McCullen admitted she was surprised when she found out she had been selected for the competition.
“I found out at the end of June or July, and I was shocked,” McMullen said. “That’s not saying that I didn’t think I couldn’t do it, but I knew there were very many talented and qualified applicants. I was shocked and excited that I was given the opportunity to show not only what I know but the things that I can accomplish with other people that have like mindsets.”
While they didn’t know each other well, some of GSU’s team members were at least acquainted before being teamed for the competition.
“I actually used to hang with Darielle at the bookstore Back to the Basics over in the village,” McMullen said. “We’d both go to ‘Freestyle Fridays’ there and sing, read poetry, showcase artists, and that kind of thing. I didn’t really know Brendan but we found out we were both Greek organization members, so that was a connection that we didn’t know we had.”
Nzoma also had a previous connection with Clark because they’re both from Detroit.
“We were both part of the Midnight Golf program,” Nzoma said.
Midnight Golf is a Michigan-based program dedicated to equipping determined young adults through life skills training, proactive coaching, long-term mentoring and the discipline of golf in order to succeed in college, in their careers and beyond.
“Darielle is a year younger than me, but I first met her through that Midnight Golf program up in Michigan, and I think all four of us will be good and successful teammates working together,” Nzoma said.
McMullen intends to take what she’s learned at GSU and help her team qualify for winnings.
“The slogan ‘Everybody is Somebody’ at GSU is true with this in that we’re being given an opportunity to show our skills and give back,” McMullen said. “I feel like I can do things in my community to give back and help those around me. So GSU has taught me how to be somebody as far as going out and doing whatever I put my mind to.”
When the students arrive in Charlotte, they’ll first attend workshops before the actual competition is held on Saturday and Sunday.
“Then we’ll find out who the winners are on Sunday and we’re hoping to at least place in the top three,” McMullen said.
Nzoma said he’s also looking forward to competing for the prize money while proving himself along the way.
“I think we have a good group,” Nzoma said. “I think I’m a good leader with good networking skills and understanding, and I think that will be very beneficial to our project. I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to help our team go to Charlotte, succeed, and earn that prize money. It’s a great opportunity we need to take advantage of. I’m looking forward to going up there and showing what we can do.”