By Patrick Sanderson
For three hours every Tuesday night for the past seven months, two dozen hand-picked teenagers created their own business plans. During a ceremony last night, these students were applauded for their commitment to create everything from smart phone apps to medical supplies.
The budding entrepreneurs, who make up the second class of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), stood in front of their families and some of the county’s top business leaders to celebrate their graduation from the Loudoun Chamber program. YEA! is designed to transform “middle and high school student into real-life entrepreneurs and business owners,” according to the Chamber’s YEA! mission statement.
One by one, graduates were called up by name and recognized with the unique business they pitched and developed. All 24 students recognized were selected from a pool of 50 applicants before the start of the program.
YEA! teaches sixth through 12th grade students who have interest in becoming entrepreneurs how to create, pitch and launch their own businesses. As an aside to other priorities, YEA! teaches youth how to become better businessmen and women.
In April, students were invited to pitch their business ideas with their business plans, future growth, and mission and vision statements to a panel of investors in hopes of receiving an investment. YEA! Programming Manager K.C. Repage said the idea of pitching their ideas to investors helps to build their confidence and give them a taste of what’s to come in the future.
Repage was impressed with how much her students grew over the course of the program.
“Some of them were really scared and didn’t know how to speak to a crowd, and some didn’t know how to put their ideas and concepts into words,” Repage said. “This was something we worked with them pretty intensely over a three- to four-month period on just pitching alone.”
After overseeing YEA! for the past seven months, Repage said she has full confidence sending her graduates out on their own to create, innovate, and put their own ideas into action.
“It’s something to give them a leg up on. We believe in these kids, we take them seriously, we want them to succeed, and we think they’re going to be our next business generation in Loudoun,” Repage said.
Dominic Maglione, a graduate of YEA! and sophomore at Riverside High School, reflected back on the program, saying he has taken away valuable information which he could apply to his future in entrepreneurship.
“This program has really taught me that connections really do make a difference and you should always try to take a risk and look for opportunities,” Dominic said. “The world isn’t always fair and you need to make your own opportunities.”