Glenbard West student competes in Young Entrepreneur competition
Glenbard West High School senior Gizlangba Gbor was all set to compete earlier this year in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy 12th annual Saunders Scholars National Competition in Rochester, New York.
But then the coronavirus pandemic forced the "America's Next Top Young Entrepreneur" event to be postponed, rescheduled, and postponed again.
Gbor, 17, who also goes by "Gigi," initially was disappointed she didn't get to travel in person to compete for the $80,000 in cash prizes and college scholarships. But Gbor is welcoming the potential global reach of the competition and the attention it might bring to her fledgling business.
"I'm very protective of my dream, but I'm happy to share it now because I need votes," said Gbor, highlighting the "People's Choice Award" component of the competition. Gbor also added that she's mostly known at school for founding a computer science club and being active with the global nonprofit "Girls Who Code" rather than her business aspirations.
Gbor's business is called "Margaret's Child." It is a children's book with drawings by Gbor that ties into a line of hair care products featuring organic African ingredients. Gbor would also like a podcast to be part of it, too, to create dialogue about identity issues.
Gbor drew from her life experiences growing up in the foster care system. Originally from Liberia, she encountered many white foster parents in the U.S. who had no idea how to take care of her hair. That is, until at age 8 when Gbor first met Margaret Philbrick through Wheaton-based Church of the Resurrection. "We went through a lot to try to figure it out, because I was completely lost and didn't have a clue to help her," said Philbrick, who later became Gbor's godmother.
Together, Gbor and Philbrick received help from a local African-Caribbean market. Then, years later, they decided to collaborate on "Margaret's Child" to help other families that have taken in or adopted Black or biracial children.
"The overall point of the business is to teach these transracial parents how to care for their Black or biracial child's hair," Gbor said. "Hair is such an important part of the Black community, and sometimes these kids are left out."
Gbor hopes to stand out in the YEA! competition as one of 36 semifinalists drawn from 35 middle or high schools from 20 U.S. states. Gbor is schedule to appear in the first of four rounds featuring nine contestants.
Gbor is limited to a three-minute prepared pitch, and then will take judges' questions for two minutes. If Gbor advances, she'll appear in the final round scheduled for 7 p.m. where the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be announced alongside the People's Choice Award (viewers must register in advance at yeausa.org to vote).
"The best way to run this was as a partnership because we've been through a lot together in hair," said Gbor about collaborating with Philbrick on "Margaret's Child." "We have a lot of work to do. There are many kids out there covering up the beauty of who they truly are."