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Why 6 Philly teens tried their hand at entrepreneurship through the pandemic


Kennysha Stanley, 18, started her business in 2018 after her mentor asked his students to come up with a catchy phrase to put on their resumes. She didn’t know what to write at first, but settled on this powerful statement: “I’m the game changer.”

Four years later, that phrase has evolved into Game Changer Apparel, through which Stanley makes hoodies, shirts, pants, shorts and more featuring vinyl designs.

Stanley, along with her peers at the University City Science Center’s FirstHand Ventures program, showcased their small businesses at a Black and Brown Entrepreneurship Expo at Venture Cafe last Thursday. Alongside the heads of a few established Black and brown-owned businesses in Philly, the young entrepreneurs set up tables to showcase their products and talk to attendees about their work.

Tiffany Copeland, program coordinator for FirstHand, said the event was held to showcase all the students’ hard work, and the fact that they took what they learned in the STEM education program and transformed it into their own businesses. Her team especially wanted to hold an event because the students were not able showcase their work in person earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each student in the program was given a startup budget to use on product development and marketing needs. Copeland said much of the students’ businesses implemented the lessons they learned in FirstHand about environmental sustainability, branding, screen printing, mold making and the like — “all types of things that require hands-on STEM learning, and then they just took that and they ran with it,” she said. “So this is a very special, special, special group, special to my heart.”

The FirstHand Ventures program was started in 2020 and targeted FirstHand alumni who had previously completed one of the traditional life-science based curricula. Many of the young entrepreneurs have been with FirstHand since the 2018-2019 school year and are leaving for college soon, making the expo a bittersweet event for Copeland.

“They’re all just a really awesome group,” she said, “and to be able to see the impact that the program has had on their life over this four-year timeframe — it’s just, it’s amazing.”

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing