Shark Tank-style SLATE Challenge Introduces St. Louis Youth to Entrepreneurship, Building Dreams, Promoting Business Development


Jada Clay (third from left, second raw), winner of SLATE’s Entrepreneurial Workshop, among her fellow students, SLATE representatives, and judges

Jada Clay started cooking early in her life, first by watching her Grandma, and later by working for a woman who owned a hotel and restaurant business. Now a budding entrepreneur, Jada is launching a new breakfast and lunch restaurant of her own, called “Little Miss Kitchen,” aiming to help North St. Louis citizens access healthy and affordable meals. Although Jada’s new restaurant does not yet have a brick-and-mortar location and is in the concept stage, the business prospect and positive change it could bring to the area excited several seasoned St. Louis entrepreneurs who came together as the panel of judges for SLATE’s pilot Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, held at SLATE offices in St. Louis on December 13, 2017.


Jada was one of seven young women-entrepreneurs presenting ideas for building small businesses, modeled after the popular TV show “Shark Tank”.  The event for a pilot workshop designed to target youth and encourage the development of entrepreneurial skills for St. Louis youth.

The seven youth entrepreneurs were selected from the SLATE Earn and Learn group, a program that invites professionals from St. Louis communities to present skill-building workshops and connect participants with resources they need to succeed. Topics include marketing, social media, networking, and – the most recent addition – developing entrepreneurial ventures. Invitations to participat in the Entrepreneurship Competition were extended exclusively to Earn and Learn youth participants with business aspirations.

During the workshop, participants gained a wealth of knowledge about setting up and running their own businesses, including feasibility of ideas, market share, profitability, and presentation skills to land financial support for business growth and expansion. Participants were judged by their proposal’s executive summary, product and service development, analysis of target markets, fiscal viability, marketing strategy, operational plans, and employee relations. Emphasis was given to the entrepreneurs’ oral presentations, which included Q&A sessions with the judging panel, with evaluations and feedback on the participants’ demonstrated confidence and positivity.

“It takes so much for a young person to come up, stand here, and speak,” said Fredrecka McGlown, Young Adult Division Co-Manager at SLATE and put together the competition. “Also, to be able to … put a pitch together, figure out the type of business they want to create, and the amount of money they need – this is a huge deal.” The program was open to youth participants of SLATE’s WIOA program, which offers a variety of employment and educational programs for young St. Louisans from age 16 to 24.

“We brought out a side of our youth we typically don’t see – the entrepreneurial side – thinking about owning a business. We introduced that [idea] to them,” said Fredrick Brown, WIOA Career Specialist and event organizer.

Challenged by Mayor Lyda Krewson last fall, SLATE pledged to “skill up” 500 St. Louisans before the end of 2017 in multiple career fields, including entrepreneurship. To meet this goal, the pilot program fully utilized SLATE’s existing partnerships with the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) and the Small Business Empowerment Centers (SBEC) to develop a collaborative, no-cost business venture development program for adult entrepreneurs. While the pilot was initially focused on serving individuals in St. Louis City and County who have lost employment through layoffs, it was modified to include the fresh ideas and energy of youth participants as well.

“Young adults need more one-on-one attention and hand-holding than our adult students,” said St. Louis SBEC’s Kevin Wilson, who conducted training in partnership with the SLDC. “We teach them at a different level, like classes at a Community College.”

The strategy worked, and has made way for a new group of young entrepreneurs to enter St. Louis’ business scene. Business ideas presented by program participants included a broad spectrum of services, including beauty shops, restaurants and bakeries, and childcare facilities.

The delighted judges provided participants with support, reinforced their visions for success, and offered inspiration to continue developing their business ideas.  Participating youth were all supplied with professional business cards and LLC licensing at no cost. Jada was unanimously selected as the winner, and awarded with a laptop and a $50 gift card to help jump start her business plan.

Most importantly, Jada was challenged by one judge in particular, who encouraged her to turn her dream into reality and open her restaurant: “Don’t say if. Say, when I do this. You have got the passion, the story, and everything in you that people need to be successful. All you’ve got to do is to believe that you can do it, you’ve got to believe in yourself.”


SLATE 24 Hour Workforce High School Celebrates 12 More Graduates with First in U.S. Educational Model

WHS Graduation

24 Hour Workforce High School 2017 Graduating Class

When the first and only 24 Hour Workforce High School (24WHS) in the country opened its doors in February 2017, it quickly became an educational sensation. Created in close partnership with St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), 24WHS opens the door to students who have not found success in traditional educational environments by providing access to school curriculum and individual mentorship 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

In April 2017, 24WHS celebrated its first two first graduates at a Commencement Ceremony at City Hall. On December 15, 2017, 12 more students joined 24WHS alumni, receiving their high school diplomas in front of a cheering crowd at the SLATE offices at 1520 Market Street. The proud graduates were joined by peers, friends and family members, their 24WHS Education Mentors, the entire staff of SLATE Young Adult Workforce Division, program partners, and SLPS representatives, to commemorate their achievements.

Educational attainment is especially difficult for working young adults, who are often limited by work schedules and family commitments. The key to success for students of 24WHS is the 24/7 classroom access and individual educational mentorship provided, allowing for students to schedule their class time around other responsibilities. The 24WHS curriculum is enhanced by financial empowerment education and holistic case management services offered to each participant. Although the school’s class curriculum is virtual, student attendance is required for successful participation. Each student can access courses 24/7 with an assigned Educational Mentor for tutoring and mentorship support to help them overcome life challenges and personal circumstances that can create barriers to educational success.

The SLATE 24 Hour Workforce High School is made possible by the overwhelming support of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, SPHS Superintendent Dr. Kevin Adams, SLPS Virtual School Coordinator, Carey Cunningham, SLPS Network Superintendent of Middle/High Schools, Dr. Ian Roberts, City of St. Louis Division of Corrections, 1st Financial Credit Union, State Representative Bruce Franks Jr., and Missouri Senator Jamilah Nasheed.

LYFT Pilot Project Offers Ride-Sharing for SLATE Construction Apprentices; Promotes Transportation Equity for all St. Louisans

lyft-logoOn December 20, 2017, five graduates of the MOKAN Construction Training program, developed in partnership with SLATE, were the first to participate in the  St. Louis LYFT Pilot Project. The construction graduates utilized the popular ride-share service for transportation from home to work and back again. The pilot program is designed to help participants of SLATE construction training programs to minimize the barrier of transportation inequity for apprentices as they work toward gainful employment in the construction industry.

Many SLATE program participants reside in marginalized communities in St. Louis, and face barriers to gainful employment due to high rates of poverty and a lack of resources. Construction graduates face the particular challenge of transportation options for traveling to training and employment opportunities, as their employers’ construction sites are often inaccessible through public transportation.

The LYFT Pilot Project aims to address transportation inequity though a partnership between SLATE, LYFT, private sector employers, and local developer Niehaus Building Services, LLC.  In the December launch, a LYFT driver transported the five MOKAN graduates in one SUV from their homes to training and, potentially, employment site at Neihaus Building Services, LLC., and back home again. Transportation costs for the five riders totaled $11 each way.

The LYFT Pilot Project utilizes a combination of private and public funding to facilitate the program, including WIOA funding for eligible participants. LYFT Pilot participants will book their transportation through SLATE, to track participant use and ensure fiscal accountability. Once graduates are placed in employment and are earning regular income, LYFT transportation costs become the responsibility of the employed workers.