Jesus Fernandez and Toheeb Okenla
South Holland, IL
NFTE Class of 2013
Chicago high school students Toheeb and Jesus needed a business plan for their entrepreneurship class at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois. When imagination failed them, Toheeb & Jesus turned to their shared interest and greatest passion: soccer. From there T&J Soccer was born.
Inspired by problems they faced on the soccer field, Toheeb & Jesus designed a new soccer sock that features a sewn-in pocket to allow players to insert the shin guard of their choice. Inserting the shin guard into the sock prevents it from sliding around, providing better side-to-side protection than traditional methods. Toheeb and Jesus saw the need for this particular product first hand on the field as they witnessed multiple injuries.
As recent winners of NFTE’s 2013 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, Toheeb and Jesus have demonstrated their passion for soccer and business development as well as an enviable level of discipline throughout the multiple NFTE business plan competitions they participated in this year. Both Toheeb and Jesus believe that, “thinking like entrepreneurs has helped us by strengthening our problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It has made us very competitive, which, in turn, has made us determined to be successful.” As children of immigrant parents, both Toheeb and Jesus have demonstrated that they are on their way to reach the American dream.
Originally from Nigeria, Toheeb came to the United States at the age of 8 to reunite with his father who had immigrated earlier. Three years ago, Toheeb lost his father. Although this was a difficult moment to overcome, Toheeb views this event as the greatest motivator in his life. He fondly remembers his father for his incredible strict work ethic and uses him as a model for how to live his life. Currently, Toheeb is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Information Systems at the Schools College of Business.
Jesus’s parents left the strawberry fields of Michoacán, Mexico in search of better opportunities for their children. Jesus currently ranks first in his class at Thornwood High School and hopes to become the first person in his family to graduate from college, where he plans to pursue a career in Computer Science.
Now that T&J Soccer has earned the top honors at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge they plan to further the development of their business using their earned venture capital. They are currently in the process of meeting with a textile manufacturer to develop the first iteration of their soccer sock. Later down the road, T&J Soccer would like to patent their technology and have theirs become the official sock used by youth soccer leagues in the Chicagoland area.