I started the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA!, last fall at Marymount University. I joined YEA! because starting from a young age, I have always been interested in starting a business, creating jobs, and making money. My father searched for programs to meet my interests, but he could never find one. One night after some researching, he found the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national program that provides entrepreneurial training to middle and high school students. Luckily, there was an opportunity near our home at the Arlington Chamber Commerce. I applied immediately and enrolled into the YEA! Class of 2016.
Each class, our teacher, Charlie, taught us lessons ranging from an elevator pitch to how to find our target market. After, a guest speaker, usually a local business owner, would come in to talk to us about their business. I remember vividly of one business owner, Karen Bate, coming in to talk to us about how she started Awesome Women Entrepreneurs, a group where women entrepreneurs meet monthly to share their experiences, give advice, and socialize. Speakers like Mrs. Bate came in to talk to us weekly. These meetings were inspirational and they gave us lots of helpful advice.
In my opinion, the biggest task we had was to write our business plan. Learning how to write a business plan was difficult and a little stressful. Even though we had an example of a business plan, it was still hard to write all the content that was needed. It was a long process filled with deadlines. However, when everyone submitted their business plan, everyone was relieved and our work was finally completed.
In February, there was a CEO Roundtable, where six CEO’s came to talk to us about their real-life experiences. They each talked about their business and we got to ask them questions. This CEO Roundtable was not just an informational class, but a session where we learned lifelong lessons and made connections with powerful people in the DC area.
In my opinion, the biggest event of the YEA! program is the Investor Panel in March. This event is where we pitch our ideas to a group of investors – basically a junior version of the show Shark Tank. Most importantly, this is the event where we receive our initial investment. The great thing is that everyone receives money, but the amount of money you receive depends on your business idea and presentation. In class, Charlie told us multiple times to make our presentations interesting, meaning, not only made up of paragraphs and words, but also including pictures and short bullets, so people wouldn’t get bored. I made sure that my presentation was intriguing and made people interested in my business. I practiced my presentation multiple times each day and finally on March 31, we presented to the investors. I ended up receiving the amount of money I asked for, which was $802. At the end of the panel, I felt that all my hard work had finally paid off.
Fast forward to now, where I am currently writing about my experience at YEA!. Through my involvement in the program, I, along with the other participants, learned the same content that actual business students learn, but in half the time. I think that YEA! is an amazing opportunity that teaches you not only how to start a business, but the important skills that you’ll need later in life, such as public speaking and building connections. Even if a YEA! student’s business does not succeed, they will be able to move forward with the valuable knowledge they acquired through this program, which will be key in helping them start and develop businesses in the future. Throughout my life, I have been enrolled in many after-school programs, but by far YEA! is the most useful and rewarding program that I’ve ever attended. All middle and high school students should take advantage of this incredible opportunity and get involved with YEA!.
For more information about getting involved in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy please contact Membership Engagement Manager Alex Held at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 525-2400.