When Hayley Hoverter was six, her single working mom brought her along to her job at Starbucks, early in the morning before school. Even at that young age, Hayley found the volume of discarded sugar wrappers distressing.
“I was able to see, firsthand, at a young age, the impact on the environment,” says Hayley, now a high school junior. “I still have the same frustrated attitude towards how people treat the environment. I can’t figure out—with all of the innovations in the business world—why a person must waste so much to do something as trivial as sweeten their favorite beverage.”
Hayley is aiming to change the status quo for cafés everywhere. Her patent-pending invention, Sweet (dis)SOLVE, is a beverage sweetener made from organic sugar wrapped, not in paper, but in a soluble organic starch that melts into your drink without adding calories, odor or taste. She started by targeting local cafés with a reputation for offering the most innovative, “green” products available, but her biggest challenge was getting up the courage to approach them.
“I was afraid that they would tell me that it was a terrible idea, and that it would never work, or that their customers would hate it,” she admits. “I felt like I was playing an adult’s game in an adult’s world. I thought I would fail or that they wouldn’t take me seriously enough because I was too young for them to consider my sincerity.”
Inspired by stories she heard in her NFTE class about entrepreneurs who learned from their mistakes, Hayley forced herself to pitch to potential clients. “The feedback from the café owners has been 100% positive,” she reports. “They are all very excited about the product, and are very eager to help me develop my business. I was able to walk out of the process with interested customers and a proud grin on my face.”
NFTE has made the straight-A student more confident about applying to Ivy League colleges, particularly Columbia and Dartmouth. She hopes to get a PhD in either politics or business and to license her product to sugar companies. Hayley says that being an entrepreneur has helped boost her confidence. “I learned that if you can dream up something great, it is your responsibility to follow through with it. When you look at it that way, you can do no wrong.”
You can read Hayley's business plan presentation here .