San Leandro teen entrepreneur pitches business plan to Obama

San Leandro teen Juny Nguyen got an opportunity many seasoned entrepreneurs only dream of — to pitch his business plan to President Obama.

Nguyen, 16, was among five high school students who had a captive audience in Obama and executive staffers at the White House on Friday, where the young entrepreneurs presented business plans they spent the last several months working to perfect.

“It was really surreal. It just didn’t feel like it was actually happening,” said Nguyen, who spoke with the Mercury News on his way to the airport from the White House.

Last year, Nguyen, as a sophomore at San Leandro High School, entered a nationwide contest organized by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an international nonprofit organization providing entrepreneurship training to young people. Students had to invent a product and then develop a business plan to sell it.

Nguyen calls his invention Neckcessories – a tie that snaps into place behind the neck with a fastener that Nguyen sews onto the fabric. He says it looks better than a clip-on tie, but is just as quick and easy to put on. He calls his invention Neckcessories.

“Clip-on ties (look) unsophisticated, and normal ties are normally complicated,” he said.

He brought one of his Neckcessories to give Obama, he said, a “silver-grey color with cherry blossoms.” Nguyen buys used ties and cleans them up before adding the snap.

An aide said Nguyen wasn’t allowed to present the president with any gifts, but Obama, it seems, really wanted that tie. Nguyen said Obama saw the tie and asked, “Is that for me?”

Nguyen responded to that he wasn’t allowed to give it to Obama, but the president said “‘I’m taking it anyway’ and he took my tie,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said he competed against his San Leandro classmates in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and went on to win competitions in San Francisco and New York. He was the only student from California who was among the winners selected to go to the White House. Their Friday visit also marked National Entrepreneurship Day, which Obama created in 2010 to recognize the role of entrepreneurship in growing the U.S. economy.

Nguyen said Obama and the White House staffers had some words of advice for the students: Stay motivated, and if you aren’t an expert in something, find someone who is.

He realized he has a few things to learn if he wants Neckcessories to grow: “Sewing and selling is the biggest thing,” he said.

But he said he’s already sold 60 ties, and at $15 each, “business is going good.” He’s taking orders for more: nguyen.juny@gmail.com.

Photo: Students and Amy Rosen, president and chief executive officer of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, at right, at the White House.  (Courtesy am: Mediaworks) 

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (222 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.