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Learner Podcast

Episode 30: Meet the Winners of the 2023 Young Innovators Accelerator Pitch Competition

Author: Marcelle Hutchins

This episode features Rossmary and Bethzy Mejia, high school and college aged sisters that recently participated in the Young Innovators Accelerator pitch competitionwhere they took first place for Strood, an app that links customers with local street vendors.  

This youth entrepreneurship challenge, hosted by Annenberg Learner, AnnenbergTech, the Greater LA Education Foundation, the LA County Office of Education, and Best Buy, brought together youth from three Los Angeles area Best Buy Teen Tech Centers. Student teams worked collaboratively for 8 weeks to develop business plans and a pitch deck, culminating in a pitch challenge at Spotify’s Los Angeles headquarters. Listen to what the winners had to say about the competition and their experience working with each other 

(The interview has been edited for length and clarity) 

Bethzy Mejia [1:09] 

My name is Bethzy Mejia. I am 17 years old. I am currently a senior at Robert F. Kennedy. 

Robert F. Kennedy is located in the center of Koreatown, Los Angeles.  

The Young Innovators Accelerator Program is a program where students gather and they are taught how to create a business pitch. And, um at one point, they create their own, and create a presentation and compete in this competition against like other centers. 

So, I’m creating an app that is named Strood. This app is meant to help street vendors promote themselves. The purpose of the app was to make it easier to find and search street vendors. While we would like the app to contain features, which like include having uh, a GPS system to know where the street vendors are, I’m particularly talking about street vendors that are always on the move.  

Our team got the idea because our team consists of me, my older sister, Rossmary Mejia, and my friend Faith Buenaobra. And um, me and Faith and would always come walking home together, she would always drop me off at my house. And she would always have a weird craving for an elote and esquites from the elote man. But like whenever we had that weird craving, for some reason, we could never find the person! So, that’s where kind of I pitched the idea that, hey, maybe it would have been easier to find the person that we were looking for if we had an app for them. 

How we wanted it to work would be like, uh basically like Google Maps with the same kind of formatting, that it would let you know who’s selling when, and what locations. However, the difference would be that it would not be made for only permanent settled businesses, it would be more inclusive and include um, the ones who are always on the move or the ones who um, are always traveling; because sometimes you never know how businesses are or their circumstances, and sometimes they are always moving.  

The name is a bit weird, but we came up with it, I think it was my sister, Rossmary Mejia. She said that the whole idea is street food, like street vendor food. So that’s why we combine the STR from street, and then the OOD from food. So, we just combined them.  

I would describe the feeling when we ended up getting first place was surreal. Like it was kind of… I felt like I was dreaming. I was even telling my friend that we were just doing this for fun, like, if we don’t end up winning anything, it’s fine. Like I kept on having that sort of mentality. So when our names were called up, I had to like recheck myself because I’m just like we actually won? So it felt very like surreal, and I felt a lot of joy because I know that everyone on my team was like truly cared for the idea, and they wanted it to like be seen as something important and something that people would like.  

Even though this is just a rough idea and it’s run by high schoolers, we were hoping that it would get recognized by someone out there and that we would be given the materials or possible connections to make it happen. 

Something I would say to young people is that, just shout the idea, like, um, especially when it comes to businesses. Um, people won’t know your idea unless you say something. There has been many times where I have seen people who have created their own businesses, but it has to start somewhere. You can’t expect anything to be done unless you take the first step and the first initiative.  

My plans after high school are not set in stone. I know that like, the future, you never know what will happen, however I am currently applying to college. So that’s one of my plans. And I want to study, I want to major in political science. I am hoping to in the near future to I am hoping to work in government law or a nonprofit organization, similar to the Young Lawyers Innovation Program; it was introduced to me by the Bresee Foundation. And I kind of want to get into nonprofit and share opportunities to others just like how Bresee did to me. 


Rossmary Mejia [8:04] 

My name is Rossmary Mejia. Right now, I am currently attending Cal State LA. This is my second year, and my major is FF M, which is technically like fashion. 

What got me into the program was basically my sister, who is also a member of my team. She was the one who showed me the flyer, and she also convinced me to join. 

At first I didn’t want to join mainly because I felt like I was going to be the only college student there. But then, she told me that oh, she was going to be there and that she was going to support me. We all did like the writing; we all did the presentations. But I mainly focused on the presentations and the visuals, like the logo. 

It was difficult to see how the images would translate to a larger screen. And I felt like I slightly failed on that because on the day of the presentation, some of the images were slightly blurry. And I wish I could have done a better job on that. 

I honestly felt like we had a good chance, because I felt like the presentation was pretty good. We were able to finish on time and we were able to explain what our goal was. And so, the moment they called our names, I was actually pretty happy because we placed a lot of time and effort outside of the classes we took. And I was glad that it all paid off.  

Working with my sister, I found it slightly easier just because I had her at home 24/7. So, if I had any difficulties or any questions, any concerns, she’s literally in the next room. 

What I would say to other people interested in this is to take a shot at it. Your idea might change over time, and it might be developing, and that’s perfectly fine. For our team, Strood wasn’t the first idea that we had. It was basically like our third or fifth idea if I remember. Progress and development are a huge thing to consider, and that’s perfectly fine, in my opinion. 

  • Strood  
  • Cal State LA 
  • Google Maps 
  • Street Food  
  • Elote  
  • Esquites 
  • GPS System 
  • Koreatown


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