WESTFIELD, NJ -- Eli Wirtshafter, 17, a junior at Westfield High School and CEO of Leaf Reliever, was the big winner at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Investor Panel event Wednesday, March 26. The local chapter of YEA! is run by the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce (GWACC). First prize was $1,265 from the investor panel, and Wirtshafter will now advance to a larger upcoming YEA! event to be held at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Moderated by radio personality Bernie Wagenblast, the competition encouraged 20 CEOs of student-run companies (YEA! participants) to present their products to a group of investors in a format similar to television’s popular Shark Tank. Participants from Westfield, Fanwood and Mountainside ranged from middle school students to high school seniors.
The event culminated the nine-month entrepreneurship academy in which the aspiring entrepreneurs were mentored by local business people. The groundbreaking program guided students through the process of starting a real business, including business plan development, pitching to potential investors, obtaining funding, managing media campaigns, e-commerce and web development and launching the venture.
Wirtshafter's winning product is an all-purpose leaf tarp with a weighted rubber, ramp-like exterior on two parallel sides so that leaves do not go under it when they are raked. Additionally, Leaf Reliever features a draw string around the outside that closes it so that the captured leaves can be brought to the street and emptied without having them fall out while being transported.
“The Young Entrepreneur Academy teaches skills they would not learn in schools,” said program director Mitch Beinhaker, an attorney and former chairman of GWACC.
YEA! presenters were:
· Sadie Salgado – 4B Baby
· Inteenships – Matt Carmino, Ben Friedman and Evan Garfinkel
· Futbol Masterio – Rory McQuillan
· Westfield Sports Broadcasting – Eric Brunt, Steven DiMaria and Tyler Hoffman
· Agona & “SoccerSock” – Yanni Angelides and Jack Meiselman
· Icy Meadows – Josh Broderick, Theo Brunson, Alex Fromm and Marvin Hamilton
· 2 Cutee – Olivia Masciandaro
· Ornament Deco – Zack Kisciras
· Super Survival Kitz – Derrick Arfanis
· Leaf Reliever – Eli Wirtshafter
· WeatherWorld – Jaret Gold
· Simple Paper Magic – Cindy Xiao
The Investor Panel consisted of:
· Jack Killion – The Eaglerock Fund
· Eric Polesuk – Product Club
· Chris Devine – Wells Fargo Advisors
· Keith Sheara – Investors Savings Bank
· Ray Ambrosino – Garden State Securities
· Joe Masterson – Nichols Advisory
· Tony Shurman – Post Foods
· Mitch Harris – Experts of H.O.M.E.
· Vikal Kapoor – The XV Group
· Howard Schram – StepItUpEvents
· Harold Star – VendorScope
· Rob Eisman – Ambac