The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a nine-month program of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, guides Middle School and High School students through the process of starting a real business. YEA! Frisco teaches students not only the importance of social and business entrepreneurship, but also the process by which one establishes a business enterprise or social movement.
On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 24 student CEOs presented pitches to an investor panel, in hopes of obtaining a portion of the $8160 in funding available. The investor panel included Stefanie Wagoner, Director of Business Retention & Expansion, Frisco Economic Corporation; Krista Wadsworth, Community Impact Newspaper; Larry Harris, Director of Assest Management, Hall Financial Group; Bethani DeMaria, a senior at Frisco High School, CEO of Necessitation and last year’s YEA! Investor Panel winner; and Ron Corcoran, Senior Vice President of Lending, Texas Republic Bank. Brett Larson, Prudential Advisors, served as emcee for the evening.
All businesses were awarded funding based on their request and the decision of the panel with the overall winner being awarded the opportunity to compete in The YEA! Saunders Scholars Competition. This competition brings together the top student businesses from each YEA! class around the country to compete to win scholarship dollars, and business start-up prize packages.
This year’s local competition winner, Gouzia Sivarajah, CEO and founder of SIINNO and a freshman at Heritage High School, received $1,644 in funding, and will advance to the regional competition in Rochester, NY. SIINNO is an LLC in the Safety and Technology Industry, dedicated towards creating technological devices that can help blind and visually impaired individuals travel safely.
“Our first product is called Movement Aid for the Visually Impaired or for short MAVI. MAVI uses sensors to detect objects all around the blind individual, and via vibrations and buzzing noises he or she would be alerted to the object in their path. The MAVI can detect anything to the side of the blind individual along with low hanging objects such as tree branches, steps, ditches and anything in front of the blind individual,” said CEO Gouzia Sivarajah.
Yurong Shao, a junior at Frisco High School and CEO of LINK, was named runner-up. Yurong’s business helps to acclimate international students to the American culture. LINK will begin with a focus on Chinese students,
In addition to the Investor Panel, four students from last year’s YEA! Program returned to pitch for a $500 investment in the inaugural Fast Pitch Competition sponsored by SWYPIT and Meek Industries, LLC. Fast Pitch competitors were Jessy Huang, Creaduh; Shashank Kumar, Experify; McKenzie Marshall, Tutor Teens; and Lauren Thompson, 3 Vizazi. The winner, voted on by the audience, was Shashank Kumar. His company, Experify tracks the expiration dates for food products.
It is amazing to see the growth of the students as they start to understand their business idea and see that it is possible for them to launch a real business. There is a certain level of excitement when you can see that transformation from a wide eye and optimistic student turns into a laser focus and enthusiastic student CEO with a passion for their business ideas,” said Peter Burns, one of YEA! Frisco Program Managers. “That passion is the fuel that drives me and our team to push them even more outside of their comfort zone, then stand back and watch them accomplish amazing things!”
Keith Britton, Peter Burns, Kevin Thompson, and Tony Felker are credited for starting the YEA! Frisco chapter over six years ago, which was the first chapter west of the Mississippi. Students from Frisco ISD and surrounding districts are selected through an application process each school year. Along with volunteers from the business community, the student CEOs receive guidance in starting a real business, including business plan development, pitching to the investor panel, obtaining funding, launching the venture, managing media campaigns, e-commerce and web development, sales events, and trade shows. The end result of the YEA! Program, unlike other simulation models, is a fully formed and functioning business, which is carried on by students after graduation.
On Saturday, May 20, 2017, YEA! Frisco students will showcase their businesses at a trade show at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
About the Frisco Chamber of Commerce
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce is a 4-Star Accredited Chamber of Commerce that consists of more than 1,300 member businesses who provide good and services to the growing, bustling economy in Frisco and the surrounding area. The Frisco Chamber of Commerce is the Voice of Business for Frisco and North Texas. The mission of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce is to protect and promote commerce, thru advocacy, resources, and connections. For more information, visit www.FriscoChamber.com.
About the Young Entrepreneurs Academy
Launched in 2004 at the University of Rochester, the YEA! Program focuses on themes of driving innovation, viewing the world in new ways, recognizing opportunities, valuing risk taking, networking, providing solutions, and creating value. Students are taught to recognize the power of their ideas, and develop the skills necessary to turn those ideas into meaningful enterprises. All of the learning at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy is real, experiential, and fun.