The future of business – the shoe business, in particular – looks to be in very good hands based on the performance of five young capitalists who made virtual sales pitches to a star-studded group of judges Thursday.

Their mission was to start a shoe company from scratch and try to solicit support from the panel of judges in the Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition, presented by the Mavericks, the Seth Curry Foundation, Chime and EverFi.

Chloe Mongelli was chosen as the winner over four other deserving go-getters who emerged from nearly 2,000 middle-school entrants.

Mongelli wowed the judges – Curry, the Mavericks’ guard, CEO Cynt Marshall, Chime chief marketing officer Melissa Alvarado and vice president of sports and enterntainment for EverFi Veronica Sanders – with her idea of a “Different Pop” sort of shoe.

“What if I told you I could sell you your exact shoe size for your exact foot type with memory foam or gel paddings or not, based on your choosing – plus an outside waterproof base for all outside activities,” Mongelli said. “I call it Different Pop. We all have different tastes. Or a different pop. For $65 apiece, you can show off your own pop in a variety of colorful shoes.”

The pitch, which included sharing 10 percent of profits with investors and 10 percent with a new charity each month prompted Marshall to say that Mongelli would be “popping up in the community wherever needed.”

The event truly celebrated all five entrants: Mongelli, Olivia Brown, Iman Johnson, Roderick Linson and Amanda Ruiz. All of them had two minutes to pitch their ideas. Each participant received a pair of Curry 7 sneakers and a Seth Curry jersey.

By winning, Mongelli also received an ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop and an ultimate fan experience at a future Mavs game.

If they had been judging NBA MVP candidates, it probably would have required a recount. It was that hard to decide between five deserving kids who all had unique ideas for how to help the community while also selling sneakers.

“It absolutely was a tough decision,” said Alvarado. “Honestly, I was completely blown away by all the effort they put in, the amount of research in those pitches. It was incredibly inspirational and shows maturity beyond their years.”

Said Curry: “They’re obviously some really smart, bright kids. That’s the best of the best getting to that point. They put a lot of effort into it. They cared.

“I felt kind of bad at the end when you see some of them sad, but it’s cool to see how much they care about it and how much they want to win.”

One of the runner-ups pitched a shoe that could help prevent certain foot, ankle and leg injuries with a new kind of fabric to provide an extra layer of protection, which got Curry’s attention.

“Every player in the league is looking for shoes that look good but also are comfortable and help prevent some injuries,” he said. “If somebody can pull that off in the near future to a high degree, that’s an added element to the game. It’s cool to see young kids working on ways to fix a major problem.”

The Venture program is in its third year with the Mavericks at the forefront of the initiative. EverFi and Chime have joined as sponsors of the program.

EverFi is the leading education technology company that works with learners of all ages through innovative digital concepts and topics and powers more than 4,200 partners in their education initiatives in all 50 states and Canada.

Chime, the Mavericks’ jersey-patch sponsor and the leader in challenger banking, has joined as a sponsor with the Venture challenge.

The business pitch competition closed out a year-long curriculum provided digitally to nearly 2,000 middle school students in a variety of school districts around the Metroplex.

“You look at these middle schoolers and look at the teachers that are investing in them and parents or grandparents – you think about the whole ecosystem and realize we’re in good hands now,” Marshall said. “I loved the heart they had for the whole community. They felt the need to address the community. They came to play. I love that. They put everything into it. We just got to keep investing in them. This is where it pays off and a return on our investment. They’ll be ready to do my job in a few years.

“To think this is going on with 4,000 students (over two years) in 22 schools across this region focusing in on the creativity and research is amazing. Some good things are happening as a result of this program. That’s how you invest in our young people.”

Twitter: @ESefko

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