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Photo ofJoshua Ramgeet

“Losses come like flies to a rotting fruit, but flies can be a good source of protein.” --Myself

After hearing about the opportunity to receive real business experience, I hastily signed up for the freshman BUILD entrepreneurship class, a program that allowed students to form companies, create a product, present it, and then sell it. I acquired two business partners and created a company. We settled on a unique idea for our product, named BottomFeeders, which was a clear sheet that would protect the sole of almost any shoe from gum, gunk, or dirt. We thought we were good to go, but the forthcoming events would prove otherwise.

All competitions would focus on the pitching aspect rather than our actual product and all teams would compete against one another. My team lost the practice rounds, but we were hopeful for the first selling event coming up. We arrived and went straight to pitching our product to anyone who came near our table. Everybody loved our presentation and our innovative idea. I mean, who wouldn’t love us? The answer: pretty much everybody. We only sold three out of thirty-five units and made a measly $21. It was a complete embarrassment. Not even our fake smiles and weak cheers could hide it -- one of my teammates even quit. If anything was a sign to give up, this was it.

For some reason though, I was still motivated. Instead of devouring a gallon of ice cream while watching The Notebook, I realized I was thankful for all of the losses. They gave me an opportunity to build on where my team came short. I slapped some sense into myself and my remaining teammate, and we tirelessly improved every piece of the presentation -- our slides, our speech, our movements -- all for the upcoming elimination challenge, where three of thirty teams would be selected to compete in a citywide business pitch competition. My nerves were high from the second I got there, but I went for it, and unlike during past competitions, we came out victorious. I was triumphant; however, we still had work to do.

A laborious month later, the day of the finale was here. I arrived at a huge hotel filled with hundreds of people and got straight to rehearsing. BottomFeeders were set to go last, which allowed my suspense to boil. At last, we were called to present. Our theme song, “Started From The Bottom” by Drake, played as we marched onto the stage. I was set to start...but I choked. I stopped, took a deep breath, and then killed it. The crowd roared with laughter -- you would've thought Dave Chapelle was on stage with us, minus jokes that’d get me expelled. Afterwards, everyone was called back and the winner was to be announced. The third place winners were called, leaving BottomFeeders and Cultural Cookbook. The moderator was given the letter with the first place winner’s name inside. The silence was broken by a drumroll. The letter was opened.

“And the winners of the 2018 BUILD Pitchfest are… Cultural Cookbook!” is what the moderator would have said if we lost, but fortunately we WON! 

Confetti rained down on our heads and assistants handed us an abnormally large $2,000 check. I honestly couldn’t believe it, but at the same time, I didn’t expect anything else.

With all the time we put in and the obstacles we pushed through, it only felt right to take the grand prize. The whole experience shaped my aspirations for pursuing and forming a career in business and solidified my belief in perseverance. Since winning, I’ve participated in several entrepreneurial programs, won other competitions, and received awards, but none of them were more valuable than the lesson I learned in losing. So let’s get some more flies!

© Joshua Ramgeet. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.