Chicago, IL (May 24, 2023) – Global entrepreneurship education nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has named three local student businesses as the winners of its annual Midwest Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. The young entrepreneurs distinguished themselves through innovative business ideas, which they will be presenting at the national finals in New York on October 3 to compete for the National Champion title and cash prizes from a pool of $18,000.  All seven competitors advance to New York, though only the Midwest champions will compete.

Seven competitors will advance to the New York competition. Three finalists pitched their original business concepts to a panel of esteemed judges, Erica Devieux, Chicago Chapter President, Chicago Black Professionals Network; Jami Ellis, Vice President, New Product Planning, Horizon Therapeutics; Pramit Mehta, Assurance Partner, Ernst & Young LLP; Natalie Resteghene, Managing Director, Alliances, Slalom; and Rob Ritchie, Regional President, Ingredion, who selected a first-place winner to receive $1,500, a second-place winner to receive $1,000 and a third-place winner to receive $500. The winners are:

  • 1st Place: Kiaira Merrill of Missouri’s Saint Louis Science Center with KiaKoutur, a business that collaboratively upcycles used clothing to help recycle the Earth’s resources.
  • 2nd Place: Malachi Davis and Ivan Walker of Illinois’ Thornton Township High School with Nokki, an idea for an alternative sweetener that does not spike blood sugar.
  • 3rd Place: Lacey Muñoz-Swedberg of Wisconsin’s Beloit Memorial High School with StudyLair, a safe space for Beloit School District students to go year-round for tutoring, homework help or to interact with like-minded students.

“We are so proud of these brilliant young minds and in awe of their commitment to entrepreneurship and making a difference in this world,” said Dr. J.D. LaRock, CEO of NFTE. “Through their creativity and original ideas, our students demonstrate the power of their generation to transform their communities. When young people are given a platform to sharpen their skills and rise to their full potential, our economy and society thrive.”

The NFTE Midwest Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge was presented by Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), Horizon Therapeutics, Ingredion, and Slalom, with signature support from GSTV and associate support from the Citi Foundation.

For media inquiries regarding NFTE, please contact Vanessa Hsia at 929-551-3813 or [email protected]; or 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.