Valeria Villanueva makes her pitch to the judges at the National Business Plan Competition.

Valeria Villanueva makes her pitch to the judges at the National Business Plan Competition.

The question, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?” can often be heard haunting the classrooms of most high schools. Teachers do their best to justify the learning and connect the knowledge and skills learned to the real world, but every so often school presents an opportunity where the real world connections need neither explanation nor justification. Valeria Villanueva’s work with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship at Woodrow Wilson High School is one such opportunity.

Villanueva, a 10th grader in Woodrow Wilson’s Business, Finance, and Entrepreneurship Academy, has earned the chance to travel across the country via the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). NFTE is a national organization that exposes students to entrepreneurship and business skills. It has served over 10,000 Dallas ISD students since 2005, works with 16 Dallas ISD schools, and has raised over $1 million in support for its programs during that time.

In her freshmen year, Villanueva took Principles of Business Marketing Finance class taught by Denise Tucker, and had a project to make a business plan. Her business is called Bedazzle Badges, which does an excellent job of taking something that students and professionals see as a pain, wearing ID badges at all times, and allowing creativity to redeem the annoyance. Bedazzle Badges is a business that sells kits with instructions to help anyone who wears a badge to decorate their badge with stickers, rhinestones, and other creative pieces so that each person can make the ID their own.

Villanueva was chosen as one of two in her class to go on to the National Business Plan Competition. She ascended through four levels of competitions, made $1000 from winning first place at the regional level, and landed at the national level in New York City in early October. During the competition, she presents a video, a slideshow, and has eight minutes to make her pitch to the judges and audience in attendance. Villanueva did well enough to sell $200 worth of Bedazzle Badges in New York.

Villanueva, who went to New York with her parents Edgar and Zoila, was able to see Times Square and meet many new friends from across the country. In addition, she gained valuable real life experience in sales, presentations, and networking. She was even able to meet P. Diddy, who was the keynote speaker at the national competition.

NFTE partners with Dallas ISD schools to provide entrepreneur mentors to meet with the students monthly. These mentors help them answer questions and consider the realities of costs, prices, sales per month, return on investment and return on sale for their projects. NFTE Dallas Program Director Karen Ezell sings Villanueva’s praises, “Valeria is an amazing young lady with a drive and passion for entrepreneurship, education, and helping others.” Villanueva was also able to speak about her experience in the competition at the Annual Youth Rally of NFTE at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Villanueva, who attended Lee Elementary and Long Middle School, hopes to be a pediatrician, and has enjoyed her experience visiting Sam Houston State University. She says she could not have done it without help and guidance from her favorite teacher and mentor, Denise Tucker. “I love Ms. Tucker,” she says. “She changed my life and is like my mommy here at school.”

Check out her Bedazzle Badges website, or watch her Bedazzled Badges commercial.

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