The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) was started in 2004, with the goal of giving middle and high school students a real education in what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
The Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce and District 211 are now in the middle of their flagship year sponsoring the academy for area high school students. To date, it has helped to produce seven new businesses between its 10 student participants from Palatine, Fremd, St. Viator and Conant high schools.
“It’s a lot of work for these students, in addition to their studies and other activities they are involved in, I’m proud of the fact that they’ve put in the time to really get something out of YEA!,” said Mindy Phillips, Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Skills, education and mentoring are provided to the YEA! participants by area business owners who volunteer their time to help with instruction.
The program began in October 2012 and will finish this May. Students started out by brainstorming about what businesses they would like to start. Once they made their decision last fall, they were taught how to write a business plan and had the opportunity to work directly with business owners and professionals to fine-tune their ideas.
Key aspects of running a business, including marketing, budgeting and even creating an elevator pitch, also are part of the guidance provided.
“My business would have just been an idea, but through this class I am now thinking about manufacturing-this class has pushed me,” said Denzel, a YEA! participant. “This has given me a sense of reality on what the business world will be like. I know I won’t be such a beginner and I’ll be able to be a step ahead of other people.”
And whether or not the YEA! participants move forward and become business owners, they do see the inherent value in being the first group to go through the academy in Palatine.
“Even though we might not pursue this in the future, it might benefit other students-if we even help out one student we can feel like we’ve done something good,” said Vinutha, another YEA! participant.
“We are paving the way for future entrepreneurs, I think we are helping to refine this program, we can say that we helped them make the process even better,” said Joe, YEA! participant.
Those in the academy are also given instruction on how to legally register their business, and given the opportunity to participate in trade shows.
And on March 21, the YEA! business owners will be given the chance to pitch their business to an investor panel made up of area business owners.
BIK & Co, LLP, one of the major sponsors of YEA!, will determine the amount allocated to each student’s business to help them take the next step forward.
The event is free and open to the public, and will be held on Thursday, March 21 at Cotillion Banquets, 360 S. Creekside Drive. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the YEA! presentations will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
For more information on the event, contact Mindy Phillips at the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce at 847-359-7200.
If you'd like to learn more about YEA! visit their website.