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Nebraska’s Future Builders Challenge

Makenna Stanton, a Lincoln Southeast student, carries a sign with a value that inspired the Equality T-shirt designed and sold in a business created by Future Builders participants at the UNL College of Business on Wednesday.

Kobe McGill didn't have any business experience.

Ryan Jensen was already running his own business.

Both have gained valuable experience from the Future Builders Challenge.

McGill, who will be a sophomore this fall at Lincoln Northeast, and Jensen, who will be a sophomore at Lincoln North Star, are among 22 local high school students participating in the program, which is a collaboration between the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools and various businesses, community groups and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The 22 students were chosen from more than 3,200 who took a Gallup assessment earlier this year and now are completing an intensive, monthlong session at UNL's Clifton Strengths Institute.

As part of the program, students learned how to run their own T-shirt business.

The students have been in charge of everything from designing the shirts to marketing them, acquiring and managing inventory.

"All 22 of us have our own special jobs," said Jensen, who has teamed with McGill on marketing the business.

The group designed four T-shirts — with themes of positivity, equality, the environment and "power the future." The themes were based on social causes that the students felt were important to Lincoln residents.

“By wearing any of the T-shirt designs, you’re showing that you’re supportive of not only these students, but building a better community,” Samantha Kennelly, assistant director of the Clifton Strengths Institute, said in a news release.

The environment-themed shirt features bees, a nod to Jensen's family beekeeping business. When asked whether he prefers beekeeping or the T-shirt business, Jensen cited the latter.

"Just because it's inside. On hot days, air conditioning is nice," he said.

The students began selling the T-shirts less than a week ago in pop-up shops at The Foundry, a nonprofit co-working space, and at this week's Jazz in June.

Sales have been strong enough that the students have already paid back their $5,000 loan. They plan to donate 10 percent of their profits to help fund the Future Builders program.

The students officially launched their business at an event Wednesday evening at the UNL College of Business that included a runway show of their T-shirt designs.

McGill said the students are free to continue the business after the program ends, but he's not sure if that will happen.

"We haven't really decided what we're going to do yet," he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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