Along with other students from high school within the 7th Congressional District, Olivia Sessoms enjoyed listening to an entrepreneur’s success story which began in a dorm room at Duke University.
Tatiana Birgisson, owner of MATI Energy, began brewing teas to stay productive during a depression slump in Durham. After improving her recipe, MATI Energy became a popular energy drink in the Southeast. Birgisson’s story was one of several highlights from the first annual 7th Congressional District Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurial Conference.
“I wanted to put something together to bring in some leading experts and give the students an opportunity to learn about what it takes and what enables great leaders to achieve the success that they do,” Rouzer said.
Sessoms, a junior from Clinton High School, was one of 70 high schoolers from Sampson and nearby counties who recently convened at the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center for the event hosted by Rep. David Rouzer.
“I haven’t thought about being an entrepreneur, but having those resources from the conference opened my eyes a little bit,” Sessoms said about getting inspiration from the conference. “So, it gives me more to think about.”
The conference was conducted through the General Hugh Leadership Center at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Rouzer stressed the importance of values-based leadership, which was one of the reasons behind collaborating with the organizations for the event. Another invited guest included United States Air Force Col. (Ret.) Quincy Collins, a prisoner of war who served during the Vietnam War.
“I thought it was a great experience to be around other people in our district and learning about becoming an entrepreneur and leadership techniques,” Sessoms said.
The conference provided two students from each high school an opportunity to meet with business leaders and discuss ways to achieve goals. The method used to select the students was decided by each respective school. Within groups, students from different high schools worked on ideas which would help the community.
“I thought it was wonderful opportunity and it taught a lot about leadership and how to be a leader,” said selected participant Rick Daughtry, a Clinton High School junior. “It showed how you can effectively lead a group.”
In addition to learning from entrepreneurs, the students participated in hands-on activities involving leadership. Daughtry recalled one where a blindfolded student was instructed to draw a picture.
“They couldn’t see the picture so we had to come up with different directions,” he said. “From that we learned that it’s our responsibility to help the entire group.”
During the conference Rouzer said he has always had an interest in entrepreneurship.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of the economy,” Rouzer said. “They’re the job creators and I wanted these students to have an opportunity to hear firsthand from others how they started their business.”
Other participating students from Sampson County included Brianna Blackmore, Union High School; Samantha Sessoms, Lakewood High School; Emily Sutton, Hobbton High School; Destiny Horne, Hobbton High School; Maxwell Virgil, Sampson Early College High School; Peyton O’Quinn, homeschool; Marianne Moore, Harrells Christian Academy; Devontae Smith, Union High School; Jesse Murphy, Midway High School; and Carson Best, Midway High School.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.