When Taylor Bean graduated from Lavergne High School in Nashville, she didn’t know what she wanted to do.
Go to college? Start her own business? Both?
What she did know was that there were plenty of ways to get where she would ultimately choose to go.
“Growing up in Nashville, you are open to all these different opportunities and resources,” said Bean, who plans to graduate in December 2022 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in business management.
Things were different in central Alabama, where her grandparents, Joe and Mary Polnitz live, and Bean often visits.
“Some of these kids, when they graduate high school they don’t feel like they can go to college or get a good job,” said Bean.
Describing herself as naturally empathetic, she wanted to help teenagers—perhaps even adults—find a way to pursue larger dreams and explore areas they might never have considered. She hopes her “What’sNxt” app concept will help people discover and pursue more possibilities.
What’sNxt uses information from personality tests, personal interest quizzes, skills assessments and similar sources to offer career choice options. Based on a person’s individual data, What’sNxt suggests potential careers and if a college degree, licensure or other credentials might be required.
“If you wanted to work in children’s education or if you wanted to start your own daycare, the pathways will show you ways to get started with either going to school or taking a state exam,” said Bean, who now works two jobs, one as an administrative assistant at Hamilton County Water & Wastewater Treatment Authority and another at a Burger King restaurant.
In November 2021, she and partner Donyea McDermott, a communication major at UTC, received a boost of confidence when What’sNxt won first place and its $2,000 prize in Hatch It!, the competition for UTC students to pitch their business ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurs.
“For many students, this is the first time they’ve shared their idea and received feedback,” said Libby Santin, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which hosts the competition.
In February, Bean took What’sNxt to the Southern Conference Entrepreneur Competition. She was one of the finalists but didn’t win.
She did win the attention of a venture capitalist, however. Herbert L. Drayton III, managing partner at HI Mark Capital, a South Carolina-based financial company that invests in black-owned, women-owned and other minority-owned businesses in the Southeast, was one of the nine judges in the SoCon competition.
“He gave me his card after the competition and told me to reach out to him,” Bean said. “He has been providing me with guidance, instruction and insight in the world of entrepreneurship.”
With plans to release What’sNxt in the fall, Bean currently is doing market research, including statistics on the number of high school graduates in the last three to four years and the number expected to graduate in the next three to four years.
“I want the app to have a strong foundation,” she said.
While the main target of What’sNxt is graduating high school students, she said it can be useful for almost any age.
“When high school students graduate, they typically don’t know what to do or don’t know their options, so that’s one reason why we’re targeting them. That way you won’t be 20, 30, 40 years old and still trying to figure out what you’re going to do,” she said.
“But if you are in that age range, you can still use the app because you’re never too old. It’s never too late to really figure out what you want to do and pursue the career of your dreams.”