Interview with Romney, Top Student Innovator in The Moody’s Foundation “Good Jobs Challenge”

Romney and team take home two awards for their business, Tie-In, which outsources social media campaigns to minority students who need work experience. Tie-In helps these young people break into the tech industry.

Romney speaks with us today about his team’s work and his personal ambitions. While solving a problem in their backyard, Tie-In also helps address UN Sustainable Development Goal #8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

1. After you read the World Series of Innovation Challenges, how did you come up with the idea for your winning submission? What inspired you? 

My business partner Ishmael came up with the idea—he used to work at a tech company and noticed that, being a Latino, he didn’t see anyone who looked similar to him. He came up with the idea of Tie-In to give opportunities to students who are intelligent but may not have as many resources as others to get their foot in the door.

Our business idea originated in November, and we’ve been operating for nine months now. What inspired me to go into business was the opportunity to make a change. There are other platforms like Indeed or Upwork that offer job opportunities, but I really wanted to work closely with minority students to foster their growth. Ishmael and I wanted to be with them side-by-side.

2. Are you interested in social/political issues?

For me, how I view the world, there are so many different issues that seem impossible to solve, and many issues that a normal person doesn’t think they can contribute to. I try to find the issues that I can make a difference in personally, through my abilities and education and opportunity, and I chose to go after creating opportunities for minorities and renewable energy. I see myself as a person that really can contribute—everyone should contribute to what they see themselves as best contributing towards.

I’m going to school to have a major impact toward “accelerating the transition to renewable energy,” as Elon Musk would say. It not only affects our generation, but future generations yet to be born and hundreds of years after. I’m dedicating my studies and future business ventures to renewable energy.

I think marketing is the biggest obstacle to the renewable energy industry. Tie-In is helping me to gain marketing knowledge to also apply to the solar industry.

I definitely want to help bridge these gaps.

3. Did you know about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before participating in World Series of Innovation?

I was slightly familiar with the SDGs, because of NFTE teacher Dawn Fregosa. She told us about it, and me and my other partner, Elon, taught a small one-week course at a local charter school, where we introduced other students to the entrepreneurial mindset and did NFTE’s World Series of Innovation with them, too.

4. What are your goals and aspirations (generally – not specific to World Series of Innovation or school! Career aspirations, life aspirations)?

Growing Tie-In to make it a well-known marketing agency that gives opportunities to minority students. I am also working to start up a small solar installation company that targets real estate. This will help one home at a time transition to renewable energy.

In the future, I want to open an orphanage in the Philippines.

5. What are your plans with the prize money?

I am reimbursing teammates for the money they put into Tie-In (for our business license, equipment); incorporating Tie-In to be an LLC; and other than that, I’m putting a little money into business savings accounts. We are also dividing a small sum among teammates for personal use, and I’ll take my family out to eat. Any extra personal money, I’ll put into a small investment account.

6. What would you tell someone who isn’t sure if they can make a difference when faced with big challenges like the Sustainable Development Goals?

It’s a step by step process. First, decide which issue you really want to face, which you’re most passionate about, which you’re best suited to contribute to. Then research and educate yourself, what are other people doing to help (ex. Elon Musk, SolarCity, new roofs). If you feel passionate about social issues, become a social worker—educate yourself toward what you care about. Even a small contribution is still a contribution. There’s millions of people in this world. But if you can feed 100 people with a nonprofit, that is still 100 lives you’ve saved. You’re playing your part in helping make society a better place.