Teen entrepreneurs score at Marshawn Lynch contest
By Lou Fancher
Paying tribute to their heritage, two local teen entrepreneurs scored big in Marshawn Lynch’s first ever “BEASTMODE-A-Business” competition.
Simone Hufana, 17, from San Leandro and Oakland, and Mathew Galvez, 17, of San Francisco, earned exposure for their products in a pop-up shop this weekend at the downtown Beast Mode Apparel store. Hufana created a children’s coloring book featuring women of color and Galvez created a line of streetwear clothing as part of the competition.
The two were chosen from among 30 Bay Area high school students attending a three-day entrepreneurial seminar at Oakland Technical High School in July. Judges included Lynch, an Oakland Raiders running back; New York Giant quarterback Josh Johnson; and staff and merchants of cloud-based commerce platform Shopify.
Lynch launched the competitive entrepreneurial readiness program to encourage business innovation in Bay Area youths, in collaboration with Shopify, the Fam 1st Family Foundation and Hingeto, an e-commerce startup that develops risk-free inventory platforms for retailers. While participating in workshops about effective messaging, branding, and the tools and materials necessary for successful entrepreneurial ventures, the students created individual online e-commerce stores.
Hufana, who attends San Leandro High School, said the future education of her 4-year-old sister, Evelien Stone, and her profound surprise at the missing stories of women of color in history classes inspired her to create “Color Her Story: Women of the World.”
The coloring book features short biographical descriptions and artwork by San Leandro student Janet Nguyen of influential women, including Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, civil rights activist Audre Lorde, Chinese-American author/social activist Grace Lee Boggs, lawyer/human rights activist Huwaida Arraf and Filipina rapper Ricky Rivera.
“Frida Kahlo intrigued my sister and is the first one she colored because she saw a woman who looked like our mom. Plus, she has flowers in her hair,” Hufana said.
But what struck Hufana was Kahlo’s powerful art that displayed struggle and spoke to the impact on Mexican culture of colonialism and gender inequality. She was further moved, even shocked, by research she did into the life of Boggs, whose work she defined as liberating, knowledgeable, outspoken and courageous.
“This is a revolutionary Chinese-American woman I didn’t know about. Why wasn’t she in my history book?” Hufana asked.
Galvez said he pours heart, soul and family history into his line of hats, T-shirts, socks and a new denim button-up shirt he will introduce at the pop-up.
“I’m going to innovate, grow, develop a bigger audience,” he said about his next steps.
LOTTAWORLDWIDE, or LOTTA, his company’s brand name and the Italian word for struggle, mirrors his broad ambition. From Lynch, he said the takeaway message involved materialism and priorities.
“He explained winning. That it was hard work and a trophy at the end of the day is just a memory, but you have to live with yourself as you go on. What’s inside of you makes you the trophy,” he said.
Inside him ever since he can recall is an entrepreneurial spirit, Galvez said.
“It’s been through my whole life. I believe I’ve had something unique, maybe since my dad started his own business. I was visionary, thinking of designs when I saw a shape on the street,” he said.
The hand reaching up through other grasping hands in LOTTA’s logo he sees as representing life as a Latino and the struggles he sees in society: people holding more than one job to support their families, living in poverty or danger, achieving but forgetting those people left behind. He collaborated with San Francisco student Ella Lawton, who illustrated his concept.
For hope, Galvez returns to Lynch’s lesson, finding it inside himself.
“I’m determined. I want my education, my tools. I tell myself it’s possible,” he said.
Although highly motivated to honor the “ancestral lineage of warriors that hold resilience, strength, knowledge and beauty,” as written in the book’s intro, Hufana is realistic. Her Filipino, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Chinese-American heritage and her gender are cause for celebration and a challenge.
“It’s going to be harder to be a successful entrepreneur: I’m a brown girl, young, a woman in business. I have to open myself up (to assistance) to scale up my business,” she said.
Building a team to finance, promote and produce the products she learned in the workshops is essential.
“As long as you have passion, you’ll be successful,” she said. “It’s just a matter of how much you put into it.”
All 30 students invited from online applications to participate in BEASTMODE received complimentary Chromebook laptops, free Shopify Basic for one year, backpacks with school supplies and clothing from Beast Mode apparel.
In addition to the pop-up exposure, Hufana, Galvez and six other top-rated students will receive Hingeto desk space, AdWords and Facebook Dynamic Ads credits, Shopify Plus expert agency design and marketing support and other prizes.