NEW YORK, NY, Oct. 04, 2023 (New York, NY) — Global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) named Raneem Al Suwaidani as the winner of last night’s annual National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, presented by the Citi Foundation and Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), with additional support from PayPal and Santander. Al Suwaidani won after three rounds of a high-stakes pitch competition against 46 regional challenge finalists from across the country.

Al Suwaidani, a student at The Met School in Providence, RI, was awarded first place with her business Lilypad, a food truck rental opportunity for BIPOC entrepreneurs testing culinary concepts in a low-cost, risk-free environment. She was awarded $10,000 plus a 45-minute mentorship session with Daymond John, The People’s Shark and the founder and CEO of FUBU, a $6 billion hip-hop apparel company.

Two runners-up were each awarded $2,500. Ashley Cruz Suarez from Florence Nightingale Middle School in Los Angeles, CA, won with her business Re-Fit and Sarai Umansor Morales from Palm Beach Gardens Community High School in Lake Worth, FL, won with her business Fiery. The students can use their awards to grow their businesses or further their educational goals.

“At our National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, audiences expect and witness business concepts that could shape our economic future, ideas that could revolutionize traditional industries, and new thinking around the use of emerging technologies,” said NFTE CEO Dr. J.D. LaRock. “Raneem proved this year was no different, as did Rachel Solomon, our first-ever NFTE Inclusive Innovator Award winner.”

Solomon, an 18-year-old from Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, won the Inclusive Innovator award with her business idea Quick Change, which offers a monthly subscription service for people who use walkers and need affordable replacement wheels. This recognition honors a young entrepreneur who has created an accessibility-focused business or business idea that aims to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The award celebrates the spirit of innovation and inclusion that drives social change and economic opportunity for all. Solomon received a $500 prize and shared her story in a fireside chat.

The judges for the final round of competition included successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, such as Tonya Edmonds, NFTE alumna and Product Manager at MongoDB; Naveen Nallappa, Chief Operating Officer at Goldman Sachs Wealth Management; Mariella Paulino, Advocacy & Social Media Manager at AudioEye; Eric Valyocsik, Head of Strategy & Operations, Strategic Initiatives Group at Ernst & Young LLP (EY US); and Akiko Yamahara, General Counsel at Citi Global Wealth.

Also at the event, NFTE paused to honor Slalom and John Antos with Volunteer of the Year awards, presented by the Alper Family Foundation in recognition of the time and resources they dedicate to supporting young entrepreneurs.

“As a long-time supporter of NFTE, the Citi Foundation is proud to help inspiring young people unlock their full potential,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation. “By empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses, the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge helps shape the future leaders and change agents who will create positive impact in their communities.”

“For more than a decade, EY US has helped young entrepreneurs gain access to the knowledge, experience and relationships they need to build and grow their businesses and their entrepreneurial mindset,” said Michael J. Kacsmar, Partner. “Whether they start their own companies or bring their creative thinking to other jobs, these young innovators will excel, and we are honored to be part of their journey.”

NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge is one of many programs the organization offers to empower young people from underserved communities to own their futures through entrepreneurship education. Learn more about NFTE and its programs.

For media inquiries regarding NFTE, please contact Denise Berkhalter at 917-281-4362 or [email protected].


About NFTE

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) ignites the entrepreneurial mindset with unique learning experiences that empower students to own their futures. A global nonprofit founded in 1987, NFTE provides high-quality entrepreneurship education to middle school, high school and postsecondary students. NFTE brings the power of entrepreneurship to students, regardless of family income, community resources, special needs, gender identity, race, or ethnicity. NFTE has educated more than a million students, delivering our programs in school, out of school, in-person, online, or through hybrid models. Visit to learn more.

About Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant communities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit

About EY

EY exists to build a better working world, helping to create long-term value for clients, people and society and build trust in the capital markets. Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate. Working across assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions, EY teams ask better questions to find new answers for the complex issues facing our world today.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via EY member firms do not practice law where prohibited by local laws. For more information about our organization, please visit