The entrepreneurial spirit starts young and The Chamber of Reno-Sparks-Northern Nevada is nurturing that drive.
In The Chamber’s inaugural year of the national program, YEA! (Young Entrepreneur Academy) 17 middle and high school students are well on their way to launching 12 businesses.
Since October, they’ve been working with mentors, advisors and consultants to develop concepts into viable businesses. The program goes through May and the businesses are taking shape.
“They’re phenomenal,” Leslie Masterpool, event and program manager for The Chamber, and the YEA! coordinator, said of the students, who range in age from 11 to 18 years old, and their business ideas.
A dozen business owners in the area work as mentors to help each team or individual develop their business plans. Additional volunteers come in to instruct the students on specific topics such as legal and financial issues.
Last week, the young entrepreneurs heard a panel of CEOs in a round table discussion describing their own roads to success.
“It’s one of many opportunities we’re trying to bring to the students,” Masterpool said.
This week, the young entrepreneurs will consult with graphic designers to create logos and fliers. Next week, they’ll work on Web sites with web designers.
March 16, the students will pitch their businesses to a panel of investors — real investors, Shark Tank-style.
In the meantime, the young entrepreneurs are excited to talk about their businesses taking shape.
Rachel Alt, 14, a student at Pine Elementary School, and Chelsie Herdt, 15, from High Desert Montessori, are working together on their business: Get the Party Started — “The party of your dreams in a little box.”
“We’ve learned so much,” Rachel said. “We’ve learned about business correspondence, marketing, doing financials, a lot of stuff. We went into it knowing nothing.”
Chelsie added that they’ve also learned about income projections, taking risks, integrity, dedication, “the traits of entrepreneurs,” she said.
Anton Novak, co-owner of Rounds Bakery, is mentoring another pair of entrepreneurs developing an online bakery specializing in gluten free and vegan products.
Kashia Jones, 18, from Wooster High School, and Emma Murray, 14, from Connections Academy, are developing specific plans and goals for KandE Bakery.
“We’re identifying fun ways to build synergy between bakers. It’s not just about competition,” Novak said.
Ideas include plans to deliver their bakery products to other businesses for pickup. Because the customer is in the store, they might just pick up something there too, so the arrangement benefits both companies, Novak explained.
The online bakery will also benefit from using social media, he said.
“I’m helping them to identify what they already know, what they have inside themselves but haven’t realized the ideas yet,” he said.
On a recent Monday evening session, Devin Sizemore, president and founder of online marketing company MarkUBiz and a volunteer instructor listened and critiqued teams pitching their companies in preparation for the investor panels next month.
Sizemore noted three students he’s working with who are develop a table-game business. They didn’t know each other when they started the program, he said, but now work well together developing their concepts.
“There’s no program that allows a student to launch a business at this level,” Sizemore said. “When this is done, they all can start a business.”
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