Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition

Congratulations to our 2022 Competition Winners!
The 2022 winners were announced April 29th after the top teams in the “Social Enterprise” and “For-Profit Enterprise” tracks pitched their business idea in front of a panel of judges during the youth summit, held in Kenan Auditorium.

The winners in the Social Enterprise track:
1st Place: LookUpp, Samin Bhan (Hoggard High School)
2nd Place: LIGHT Zero Trace Vehicles, Maya and Ciera Roseboro (Isaac Bear Early College HS)
3rd Place: The Pre-Prepared Family Meal, Ian Itzkowitz (Cape Fear Academy)

The winners in the For-Profit Enterprise track:

1st Place
: FutureSeed, Anna Knorr (Cape Fear Academy)
2nd Place: The Muscle Pain Gauge, Parker Bates, Will Hinshaw, and Blake Harrell (Laney HS)
3rd Place: Millennia Battery, Ella and Alice King (Isaac Bear Early College HS)
YEPex 2022 Photo Collage
Congratulations to the 2022 winners!
Winning teams receive a cash prize, trophy, a one-year membership to the UNCW CIE and a copy of Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Competition Overview
The seventh annual Chancellor’s High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition of 2022 is presented by the University of North Carolina Wilmington in partnership with Chancellor Sartarelli and UNCW's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Also known as YEPex (Youth Entrepreneurship Program Experience), the program offers an amazing year-long opportunity for high school thinkers, dreamers, and innovators to explore their inner entrepreneurial spirit. It positions UNCW as the entrepreneurship hub for the 18 county region* and 50 high schools in the minds of the most ambitious high school students. (*Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Robeson, Scotland, and Wayne.)

Competition Tracks

  • For-Profit enterprise
  • Non-Profit or Social enterprise

The 2022 YEP Experience

CompetitionThe Chancellor’s High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition process begins February 1 and consists of a business plan and video pitch submission. Finalists are selected and meet with CIE mentors (local entrepreneur partners) to prepare them for their main stage pitches. We are entering year eight in 2023 of this program.  Participants in the competition, parents and teachers have all commented on how the experience has impacted them or their students and challenged them to think in a different way. We are proud to present this competition on behalf of the Chancellor. 

  • Preliminary Competition The YEP program starts in local high school classrooms spanning from Career and Technical Education, Business and Entrepreneurship, and even Science and Engineering classes. There, the fundamentals of the entrepreneurial mindset and basic business tactics are taught to students.  From that point, students create an idea that solves an immediate problem, and turn that solution into a business plan.  Their submissions, a 5-minute video pitch and an executive summary are reviewed and six finalists are selected from amongst the group.  CIE also hosted in-person classes to teach the entrepreneurial mindset and business skills. 
  • Pitch Practice After finalists are selected, teams convene at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for an 1.5 hour workshop with small groups of CIE mentors to develop their initial ideas into a final form to be presented at the summit. Mentors focus on developing value propositions, financial information, and path to market strategies. 
  • SummitThe year-long experience culminates with the YEPex Youth Summit in the spring with a keynote speaker followed by the Chancellor’s High School Competition finalists on the main stage at Kenan Auditorium to pitch in front of a panel of judges and their peers. Winners are announced, lunch is served and campus tours are provided. 
    • The 2022 YEPex Youth Summit was held in person in Kenan Auditorium for the first time since 2019. To commemorate, Chancellor Sartarelli gave a speech to kick off the summit followed by our keynote speaker, Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA.

2022 Stories of Success 

  • We had 198 attendees at the YEPex Youth Summit.
  • We had 22 submissions from 5 different schools this year!
  • Anna Knorr from FutureSeed (CFA) will be attending UNCW after graduation.
  • Samin Bhan of LookUpp (Hoggard) plans to continue pursuing his idea after receiving over 300 sign-ups in his school within 3 days of launch.

Participant Feedback 

  • Thank you for hosting this!” - Live Oak Bank Employee
  • I just got done watching the YEPex Entrepreneurship Competition. Thank you for putting this all together.” - CTE Director of NHCS
  • “Thanks for all that you do at CIE.  I've finally been able to get an entrepreneur course to run at our school so I look forward to being able to utilize your center more often next year, especially with hope of less COVID concerns.” - Cape Fear Academy teacher.
  • “This experience was amazing. I learned so much. Thank you to the coaches for the awesome feedback!” - Participant 

Please see How to Participate and Competition Criteria for more details

Past Years

YEPex launched in 2019 as a year-long experience consisting of monthly meetups for 9-12 graders to connect with local entrepreneurs and learn more about the entrepreneurial process and what it takes to start up a business.  The experience culminates with the Youth Summit in the spring at Kenan Auditorium with a keynote speaker, the Chancellor's competition, awards, and lunch on Kenan Lawn.  

The 2021 YEPex Youth Summit Final Competition was held by Zo as a virtual summit. Thank you to everyone who made 2020 and 2021 YEPex Youth Summit and Chancellor's High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition a huge success! 

2020 First place winners were Cactus Security, Topsail High School in the for-profit track and NCVSDE, Isaac Bear Early College in the social enterprise track.

Watch the 2020 competition video here.

Social Enterprise: 3rd place, Spark (Zealia from Hoggard High School); 2nd place Litter Detection Tech (David from Cape Fear Academy); 1st place NCVSDE (Ella from Isaac Bear Early College)
For Profit Enterprise: 3rd place, Urge Basketball Fitness (Elizabeth from Southwest Onslow High School); 2nd place, SafeTKam (Robert and Olivia from Wilmington Early College High School); 1st place, Cactus Security (Cate from Topsail High School