Alabama student pitching her business in nationwide competition

With so many young people today (and more than a few older people), their self-image is tied up in their social media presence.

How they appear to their friends and followers on Instagram matters more than how they feel about themselves.

Emily Butler wants to change that, and she’s turned that goal into a business.

Butler, who just graduated from Trinitas Classical Academy, a Christian home-school co-op in Killen, is the founder of “More Than The Reel,” an online clothes seller with a positive spin.

More Than The Reel’s motto is “Inspiring people to live for more than the highlight reel of social media.”

Its products include the “Conversation Starter Crewneck,” which simply has the word “More” on the front.

“The statement is just enough to make people ask the question “What does your shirt mean?” says the description on Butler’s website. “We believe that conversations change minds, and changed minds change lives. With changed minds, we can join together to fight against the idea that what we see on Instagram is always the whole story.”

'More' shirt

The shirt is intended to get people to ask ‘What does your shirt mean?’

Butler, now a student at Northwest Shoals Community College in Tuscumbia, decided to start her business after enrolling in YEA!, or Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The Cullman chapter of YEA!, Alabama’s only chapter, has members across North Alabama.

YEA! Helps students develop business ideas, write business plans, do market research, pitch their plans to investors, and launch and run their companies and social movements. Its mission is “teaching more students how to make a job, not just take a job.”

“Through YEA! I learned that business doesn’t have to fit into a specific mold as I had assumed before. YEA! taught me what true entrepreneurship is,” said Butler.

As part of the YEA! program, Butler’s business plan won her a spot in the America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneur contest, which is part of YEA!’s 12th Annual Saunders Scholars National Competition.

The “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition will award more than $80,000 in cash prizes and scholarships to the Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Butler will compete in the semi-final round on Oct. 17, pitching her unique, “More Than The Reel” idea, which donates 10% of each purchase to the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that provides tools to help protect the emotional wellbeing of teens and young adults.

Butler already has an impressive resume, having been named a “Distinguished Young Woman” of Lauderdale County and being selected for Youth Leadership Shoals. She was also selected for Girls State, where she was elected Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

This competition will help her and other young entrepreneurs launch their fresh ideas into the business world.

“Just imagine what our world would look like if every student got the chance to bring their ideas to life,” said Gayle Jagel, YEA! Founder and CEO.

Shelly Haskins writes about points of pride statewide. Email your suggestions to [email protected], or tweet them to @Shelly_Haskins using #AlabamaProud

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