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FAMU students take top honors in entrepreneurship competition hosted by rapper ‘Big Sean’

A quintet of students from Florida A&M University took first-place honors Sunday in the “Moguls in the Making” entrepreneurship competition hosted by Grammy-nominated rapper and philanthropist Sean “Big Sean” Anderson.

The FAMU team consisted of Livi Grant, Keishon Smith, Nalani Kelley-Marsh, Emmanuel Dawson and Earl Perry.

The competition was sponsored by Detroit-based Ally Financial Inc., in collaboration with the Sean Anderson Foundation and The Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The Florida A&M team competed against five-member teams from 10 other historically black colleges or universities, among them, Howard University, North Carolina A&T and Tennessee State.

For their placement, the FAMU students each received a $5,000 scholarship, an internship at Ally Financial Inc. and a MacBook Air computer.

The winning plan focused on development of finance and banking in the city of Detroit.

Team members from the 10 schools also participated in sessions on mentoring and financial education and heard from Detroit-area business leaders. They worked in groups of five to develop business solutions to various issues facing the city, including employment, education and real estate.

Anderson, a 31-year-old Detroit native who created his foundation in 2012, has been successful the music industry for nearly a decade, when he was first signed by Kanye West. He later signed with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation in 2014.

His four studio albums have been certified gold or platinum sellers and he’s earned five Grammy nominations, according to Forbes. He was executive producer of the History Channel documentary “Detroit: Comeback City.”

“It’s all about inspiring the youth — providing them with opportunities and knowledge to build their futures. I’m excited to see what they come up with,” Anderson said in a news release before Sunday’s competition.

The teams pitched their solutions to a panel of judges including Anderson; Andrea Brimmer, Ally chief marketing and public relations officer; Anand Talwar, deposit and consumer strategy executive; Tommey Walker, principal of Detroit vs. Everybody; and George Spencer, executive vice president of business development, Innovation and entrepreneurship at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

“We wanted to shine a spotlight on kids who are at these universities, the smart thinking that’s there, and the entrepreneurship that exists within them,” Brimmer told the Detroit Free Press. “Selfishly for Ally, there’s a huge benefit for us because it exposes us to a great pool of talent that hopefully will be teammates of ours at Ally someday.”

Ally Financial Inc. is a digital financial-services company with $178.9 billion in assets as of December 31, 2018.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the black college community.

Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at bdobson@tallahassee.com or on Twitter @byrondobson

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