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Kyla Ellis, Spears HTM junior with her first place trophy for the International DECA Competition

Kyla Ellis, Spears HTM junior wins 1st place at International DECA Competition

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Media Contact: Bailey Stacy | Communications Coordinator, Marketing & Communications | 405-744-2700 |

Hospitality and Tourism Management junior Kyla Ellis won first place at the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference in Baltimore on April 9-12.

Ellis competed in the Entrepreneurship-Starting a Business division against students who are “the best of the best from all 50 states and multiple countries around the globe.”

Ellis, a junior from Edmond, Oklahoma, is studying hospitality and tourism management with a concentration in event planning. She plans to graduate in May 2023 and then hopes to open her own company, Events Unboxed.

Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) is a business student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in business principles through leadership, community service and competition. The Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference offered leaderships workshops, competitive events, career exhibits, networking, and a professional development series to name a few.

Within the Collegiate DECA Competitive Events program, there are five events participants can compete in: Business Management and Administration, Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Within each event there are more specific topics students can present on.

Ellis competed in the entrepreneurship category focusing on Starting a Business. The event was attended by 1,000 students, plus advisors and staff.

She presented over her own business idea of Events Unboxed. Within her specific category, she competed against 24 other teams in the preliminary round then against nine other teams in the finals. Teams range from one to three members.

Each team wrote a 15-page paper that included the overall business plan and financial reports for their company. Then presented for 10 minutes before having a 10-minute questions and answers portion with the judges.

At this competition, there were three people from Oklahoma — two of whom made it to the finals and then the winner, Ellis. This was the first time in 20 years that the winner was from Oklahoma.

Ellis has been a part of DECA for six years. In 2020, she started a collegiate chapter at Oklahoma State University and this past February she completed her term as the first Oklahoma Collegiate DECA State President in Council 1.

“If I had to pick one person who inspired me to get as far in DECA as I have, it would have to be my high school DECA advisor, Kim Walters, or Walt as I call her,” Ellis said. “She pushed me, challenged me and never let me stop short of something she knew I wanted (like winning DECA glass).”

Ellis is looking forward to assisting others by opening Events Unboxed after graduation.

“It was born out of the desire to help people celebrate,” she said. “We deliver pre-themed and packaged parties with the option for customization delivered directly to your door. The birthday party industry is worth $38 billion. We will specifically target younger individuals with kids who are either single, very busy or who want a social media-ready party.”

Story By: Alexis Hightower |

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