A nine-month education in entrepreneurship led to a New York experience for one Reno middle school student.
Gisselle Martinez, 14, of O’Brien Middle School, participated in Nevada’s first Young Entrepreneurship Academy (YEA!), sponsored by The Chamber of Reno, Sparks, Northern Nevada.
From October to May, the YEA! students, ages 11 through 18, worked with adult mentors who helped them through the steps of creating a viable business from developing an idea, business plan, budget, through opening for business.
Martinez said when she first heard about YEA! last year she felt “a kind of rush” and applied.
She was attracted to the academy because of “the idea of being my own boss. I knew I was a leader and people listen to me. I wanted to make a difference.”
The 2016 YEA! graduating class of 15 created 11 unique businesses. March 16 they presented their start-ups to a panel of investors during the Minnow Tank, a Shark Tank-style presentation.
Martinez created a line of environmentally friendly handbags and wallets. She was inspired by her grandmother and mother, who taught her to crochet and now help make the products for her business, called simply “Gisselle.” She is working on final details for her website, particularly the method of accepting payments, then expects to start selling soon.
Her school mates are surprised that she owns her own business., and inspired to do something similar. Her younger sister is also inspired.
The class of 2016 graduated May 2. Martinez was selected to represent the class — the first in Nevada — in the semi-finals in Rochester, New York. She left a couple days after graduation. Martinez joined 120 other students from around the country who presented their business ideas to another Minnow Tank panel and competed for a spot at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.
“While she was not selected to move forward, she did an amazing job presenting and connecting with the other students and professionals in attendance,” Leslie Masterpool, events and programs manager for The Chamber, said in an email.
Martinez said she was honored to be able to represent Nevada in the competition and was impressed “by the diversity of businesses that varied state to state.” The students also had the opportunity to explore Manhattan.
In fall, Martinez will enter high school at the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology.
“This program helped me get into AAGT,” she said.
“It’s really important to have self-confidence and to do what you want to do,” she said of the major lesson she learned during the program. “This program really brought it out and up. It’s a great program.”
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