Mary Holt and Hannah Wahl (Photo courtesy of Sarah Wahl)

Two former J.L. Long students are headed to New York City this month to compete in the national Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Hannah Wahl and Mary Holt used the concepts learned in their Principles of Marketing, Business and Finance class at Long to create the concept for Brownie Bar.

Outside of J.L. Long and Woodrow each afternoon, paleteros (street sellers of ice cream and other snacks) can be found pushing or riding in their carts, ready to satisfy the sweet tooths of students spilling out of class. Brownie Bar combines the carts of the paleteros with a build-your-own brownie concept, where patrons can choose flavors and add toppings such as caramel, whipped cream and sprinkles.

Wahl and Holt took Andrew Molina’s business class last year, and spent all year creating a business plan. At the end of the year, students presented their plans, and two were chosen to go on to the regional Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) competition in the Ernst and Young building in Downtown Dallas. Molina says the class came up with a variety of ideas, from solar fans, to cellphone apps, but that the most successful business plans were the ones that were connected to students’ passion.

Holt’s passion for baking started at a young age, and Wahl’s math team skills helped round out the business plan. “Mary and Hannah took something that was simple and ran with it,” Molina, says. “From the get go, they were going to be one of the strong contenders.”

Teacher Andrew Molina with Wahl and Holt after the regional competition. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Wahl)

Molina spoke about the legwork the students did in calling other bakeries and farmers markets to learn about pricing information, and it paid off. The two advanced from the regional NFTE competition last spring, winning $1,000, and will compete at the national event later this month. The girls will explain their business plan and give a 30-second elevator pitch as part of the competition.

Karen Ezell, the North Texas Director of NFTE, spoke to Fox 4 News about the way entrepreneurship helps give meaning to students’ core classes when they see math, presentation, and language skills put to use in a practical way. Holt and Wahl were also featured in the story. “We give the customer complete creative control, allowing them to choose from a selection of different flavors, spreads and toppings,” Holt said.

The students are now in ninth grade, with Wahl attending Hockaday and Holt at Woodrow Wilson.

“They did all the work, and I was just there to guide them,” Molina says. “It has been an amazing journey for them, and it is one of the proudest moments I have experienced as a teacher.”

Vote for Brownie Bar or other business plans here. The winner will receive $2,500 towards their education or as a loan to get their business off the ground.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.