LEMOORE — Following a successful first year, the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce is looking to expand its Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA) to include more middle and high school students as its application deadline approaches.
Last year, six students met each week starting in the fall at Lemoore Middle College for classes that taught them how to start and run their own businesses. The program ran through May and included field trips to various local businesses ending with a trade show and graduation.
This year, the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce is hoping to extend participation to at least 10 students with classes starting Oct. 13. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30.
Throughout the class, students developed business ideas, wrote business plans, conducted market research and pitched their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds to launch and run their own, fully formed companies.
“What’s cool about the program is not only do they get to look at business, but they learn public speaking skills and how to take criticism, and that failure is bound to happen and [they] can learn from it,” said YEA program director Brittany Reece.
Founded in 2004, thousands of students participate in the program nationwide with its mission to teach students how to make a job, not just take a job. Last year, the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce voted to start the initiative locally and is one of several in the Valley including Visalia and Tulare.
In May, investor judges pledged a total of $3,600 to the startup businesses of five of the six students in the Lemoore program.
Reilly Nava, who was an eighth-grader at Island Elementary, received $1,300 to start her company, Home on the Go. Her company aimed to help the homeless by taking abandoned shopping carts and transforming them by adding foldable extensions allowing homeless people to sleep off the ground while keeping their belongings in the cart.
Other startups by students included a tutoring business, a business that made and sold quilts, one that sold durable water polo balls and another that helped women shop according to varying brand sizes.
This year, instead of meeting at Lemoore Middle College, the group will meet at West Hills College Lemoore, with the ability to use its computer lab, Reece said.
So far, Reece said the best part of helping with the program is seeing students learn valuable skills.
“As the program manager you get to see kids transform,” Reece said. “You start to see them have that entrepreneurial mindset.”
Applications are available online at yeausa.org. Reece also said there is an interview process so any interested students know what work goes into participating in the program.
Classes meet from 4-7 p.m. Thursdays at West Hills College Lemoore.
For more information, Reece can be contacted at 924-6401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.