SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - On Wednesday Night, participants in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy - Schuylkill program presented their business ideas to a panel of 11 investors before a crowd of over 100, including two from upper Schuylkill County.
The event, held in the Health and Wellness Building at Penn State Schuylkill, is part of Phase Two of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy program.
The 30-week program, open to students in Schuylkill County in grades 6-12, is intended to teach students about the aspects of business - marketing, planning, research, etc. Students generate business ideas and learned how to pursue them. Tuesday Night, they were given the chance to compete for funding for their ideas. Students also had the opportunity to earn a spot in the YEA Northeast Region Saunders Scholar competition, held in May in Rochester, NY.
14 teams of students presented businesses and business plans.
Lindsay Griffin, Frackville, a freshman at North Schuylkill High School, presented a plan for her business 'Lemental Creations, specializing in health and beauty products. Her pitch earned her business $1,500 from the investors and a trip to Rochester, as she was chosen as a Saunders Scholar Semifinalist.
"I am in shock, pretty much. I guess I'm ready to go to Rochester to present there. I can't wait." Griffin stated, after learning she was chosen.
Griffin says she's enjoyed the program, and would recommend it for anyone with any interest in business, but notes the difficulty of the course.
"I really enjoyed the class. It's definitely not for people who are just really lazy, you definitely need to be hardworking to do it, and that's because there's a lot involved in it." Griffin noted. "You have to come every week, it's three hours long, you have lectures every week, guest speakers, you have tons of work to do on your plans and your presentations. There's just a lot involved in it, and you definitely have to do a lot of work."
"If you have any interest in business, you should definitely take the program" Griffin added.
Alex Macker, Shenandoah, a Sixth Grader at Trinity Academy, also presented a business plan, for Happy Tails, a Dog Walking Service and Doggy Day Care for the greater Shenandoah Area. Macker was awarded one of two scholarships made available by Pam and Tom Twardzik for students from the Shenandoah Area.
"I think it was the best opportunity in my life to take." Macker said of his experience in the YEA Program.
Mackenzie Lucas, a Junior at Tri-Valley and the Schuylkill Technology Center, also recommended the program to those who have the opportunity to participate.
"We learned a lot about how to run a business and how to set up a business, how to present ourselves professionally, and a lot of things along those lines." Lucas said of the program.
"The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a national program that, three years ago, was brought to Schuylkill County. It supports young adults who want to move into entrepreneurial endeavours, and we think small business and business start-ups are the essential of what drives the US Economy, so, supporting young people in making sure that they have the opportunities to live out a big idea, and make a pitch, and launch a business, we think that's pretty important for our community growth, economic growth, and the success of young people." Robert Carl Jr., president of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the program in Schuylkill County, stated.
"The Young Entrepreneur Academy, a.k.a. YEA, is extremely important to the county", Karen Kenderdine, Vice President of MidPenn Bank's Trust Department, and a member of the YEA Investor Panel, said. "... The main reason I think it is so important to the future of our county is to retain our youth and to bring our youth back home. We talk all the time about out-migration, but what we're hoping to accomplish with programs like YEA is to give our youth the opportunity to be the creator of jobs, not to look for a job, but to create them, so that they can come home and be the leaders of the change we need in the county."
Kenderdine, who also serves as the president of Downtown Shenandoah, Inc, believes the program is especially important for northern Schuylkill County.
"We are very fortunate, both the YEA Program and the students of Shenandoah, that Tom Twardzik actually offers a scholarship for a student from Shenandoah High School to attend this program, and I think that's a great gift... I think Shenandoah, which is in a period of rebirth, could use entrepreneurs to come back and help that area too, so I think it's invaluable to boroughs like Shenandoah to have our youth become entrepreneurs and start businesses, and fill the empty storefronts and rebuild our communities. I thank the Chamber for bringing this, and all the students, I'm very proud of everyone who participates, it's a huge undertaking and they all need to be commended." Kenderdine added.
The YEA Program is currently accepting applications for it's fourth year. Classes meet every Tuesday from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at Penn State Schuylkill beginning in October. Interested students or parents should contact the program at 570-622-1942, 800-755-1942, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The students' businesses and products will be on display at the YEA! Schuylkill Trade SHow on Saturday May 13, 2017 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm at the Coal Creek Commerce Center in Saint Clair.