At 16-years-old, Newport High junior Amrita Ram started her own business and traveled to Texas and Washington DC to present and pitch her invention – flooring that transforms kinetic energy into usable electricity.

Ram, a senior at the school this year, was taking part in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and Saunder’s Scholars Competition, a national program with a Bellevue location sponsored by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue School District.

In the program, Ram took classes to learn about what it takes to start a business and create a product.

“The program itself offers an intensive course of entrepreneurial skills and they bring in people to talk to you and everything,” Ram said. “And it’s a really interactive program where students are able to go through all these classes and eventually come out of it by having made a business.”

Classes were held after school on Wednesdays.

“I thought it would be a really, really good program to have in my background, as part of my skills, just because business is a really important part of everybody’s life, no matter what career you go into,” Ram said of why she was interested in YEA!

As for Ram’s business, she was inspired by children’s shoes.

“The little kid’s shoes, the one’s that light up in the dark – that uses the same technology that I’m using on a much larger scale and much more complicated with all the wiring and whatnot.”

She named her company Fresh Steps, and named her product the Ecoboard.

“It’s a flooring board that you can put into public areas,” Ram explained. “So when you step on it what you’re doing is you’re capturing the kinetic energy from the pressure of your footsteps and transferring it into electricity.”

Ram said she enjoyed making friends from different schools around the eastside, and that the support of the program’s mentors was key.

“The support team is really wonderful and they help you through the entire process and they are there for you the entire time,” Ram said. “And they have a wide set of skills, so you’re able to talk to them about anything.”

The program included creating a working prototype to present at a local competition. As one of the winners at the local level, Ram advanced to the regional competition in Texas, where she was also one of the winners. From there she went to the national competition in DC. And while she didn’t win there, Ram said that she was grateful for the experience and was excited about the future of Fresh Steps.

“I’d say in the end it really does come down to the student,” Ram said of turning the concept for a business into reality. “It’s not like you’re faking your way through it, you’re actually applying for a business license, and you’re actually writing a business plan and creating a pitch for investors, and you get money from the organization too, so it’s not something you’re just faking your way through, you’re actually working through everything.”

Ram also said that she learned about the value of networking and making connections with people.

“You make all these connections…these connections that you wouldn’t get from sitting at home working on your laptop.”

As for the future of Fresh Steps now that she has completed the Academy, Ram said that she is moving forward with pursuing a patent on her invention and is staying in touch with an interested buyer that she met in DC as well as pursuing a test pilot of the flooring in Tyee Middle School.

“This has really taught me that it’s important to keep going, not to give up on something just because something doesn’t work instantly,” Ram said. “I had problems with getting my prototype to work so I had to really work at it.”

If she could do it again, Ram said she definitely would, and she encouraged her fellow students to think about what problems they see in their lives that they could fix when thinking about creating a product and starting a business.

“The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is probably the best way for students to get interactive in their community and really learn about how to make their life better through business and different sides of marketing and sales.”

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.