AVID students win national business competition in U.S. Virgin Islands


Courtesy Diana Suvorova

The four winning team members hold their prizes alongside Executive Director of the YES program Professor Ernest Ruffin, Jr. (far left). (Naidely Gonzalez-Herrera pictured to the left of students; Diana Suvorova pictured to the right of students)

A group of four Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program students from the Mountain View–Los Altos School District won the 2021 Young Entrepreneurz Solutions (YES) National Business Plan Challenge during the first weekend of November, earning a grand prize of $1,000 per student. The students traveled to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in an all-expenses-paid trip for the national competition.

The group of four students — Los Altos High School juniors Diana Suvorova, Naidely Gonzalez-Herrera and two other students from Mountain View High School — were the ​​winning team from last year’s local MVLA YES competition, qualifying them for the national competition this year, alongside three other teams. The other teams came from Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Milwaukee, WI and Orange County, Calif.

The YES competition is one of the many programs that AVID partners with to provide students a variety of career-oriented resources. This program, made possible by a partnership with Comerica Bank, teaches students entrepreneurial skills with speakers like Rutgers Business School professor and Executive Director of the YES program Ernest Ruffin, Jr. Teams of students then pitch an idea for an original product to a panel of judges, many of whom are real investors.

The MVLA winning team’s company is called NDEN (made by combining the team members’ first names), featuring their product of dry shampoo and conditioner bars that do not require plastic packaging. Last year, the team won the local competition with a design that included liquid shampoo and conditioner, supplemented by eco-friendly packaging; however, they had redesigned their product for nationals and removed the packaging aspect altogether.

One of the greatest challenges the team faced was the research behind the design, and presenting that research in an easily comprehensible way for the judges, according to team Chief Executive Diana.

“We’re not really chemists, and the business we wanted to make was very based on the knowledge of chemistry,” Diana said. “[At the same time], it’s very important to understand that your audience is probably not going to care about [behentrimonium methosulfate] or whatever else we add into the bars. Our goal was to do the complicated research and simplify it as much as possible.”

Despite the high-stakes environment of the competition with a national title at hand, Diana pointed out that the trip was quite relaxing and welcoming.

“It was very much like a vacation atmosphere,” Diana said. “We went to the beach a lot — our hotel was right in front of one.”

Now with a national title under her belt, Diana sees the competition as a reflection of the work AVID does for its students.

“AVID has connected me to a lot of different pathways,” Diana said. “I think that the AVID teachers do an incredible job at bringing all the little opportunities that come up in different places for students … [and] at providing students with things that really help them build career-interests.”

Next year, the national competition will take place in Saint Thomas island. A winning group of five LAHS AVID sophomores — Diana Flores, Hazel Castaneda-Lopez, Melissa Gabriel, Esperansa Kulyger and Angel Oregon — from the local MVLA competition this October are already planning to attend.