LEMOORE — “Start as a student, finish as a CEO” is the quote the students from the Lemoore Young Entrepreneurs Academy had on the back of their shirts Thursday as they graduated from the program.
The 29-week course took four students on field trips and taught them every facet of owning a business from business mentors in the community. It so happens that all the students in this year’s class attend Lemoore Middle College High School, including senior Steven Gong, junior Saylor Lopez and freshmen Kevin Gong and Breanna Monsivaiz.
“These kids are pretty cool — I think they’re really tired of me at this point,” program manager Brittany Reece said after thanking the students’ parents for all their support and time commitment.
Reece read the students a portion of the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and said she hopes the students value the skills they learned throughout the course and cherish the “foundational knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit” they now carry with them, whether they continue with their business or look for a new adventure.
“You four are some of the brightest, most ambitious students I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” Reece told the group, who all wrote business plans and launched businesses before graduating high school. “You guys really applied yourselves and did something amazing.”
The students received certificates from YEA, Congressman David Valadao’s office and Assemblyman Rudy Salas’ office. They also had a ribbon cutting for each of the businesses as they became honorary members of the Chamber of Commerce.
Steven, CEO of healthy lunch service company GoGo Lunchboxes, said he thought the program was great because he learned a lot about the whole process of owning a business. He plans on studying dentistry in college and having his own practice one day. H thinks this program will be beneficial when he gets to that stage in his career.
“I’ve heard that the one aspect most doctors or people in the medical field lack is business knowledge and how to manage a business or write a business plan,” Steven said, adding he thinks he has a good grasp of that business aspect after completing YEA.
Kevin, CEO of 1 of 1 Outfitters, said even if his business — which sells shirts with microfiber cloth sewn on to clean eye glasses or phone screens — doesn’t succeed, he will have all the knowledge he needs to start another business. He said he would encourage anyone to join for the experience alone.
Breanna, CEO of Giplo, whose first product is an expandable duffel bag, said she had a great experience in the program and would definitely participate again if she could. She said her time in the program was “amazing” and has recommended others to give it a shot. Next up for Breanna is making a prototype of her bag and finding a manufacturer who could make the bags in bulk.
Saylor, who is now the CEO of Loud Mouth Karaoke, said she is almost ready for the company to be up and running. She said it's hard to find the right words to accurately describe how much she appreciates the program.
Her idea for a rentable karaoke trailer even took her all the way to Rochester, New York, for a national YEA semifinal. She said she started a Go Fund Me campaign and the trailer and system are almost ready; she just has to get some paperwork in order and hopefully it will be operational in a few months.
Saylor said she plans on running the business through her senior year of high school and beyond if it’s successful. She liked the program so much, she’s already recruiting her friends to join YEA’s next session.
All of the students wanted to thank the people who made their experience possible, including the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce; mentors Damon Miller and Ayla Tidwell; teachers Joseph Bressler, Rick Rossiter, Amy Ward and Jenny MacMurdo; all the guest speakers who shared their wisdom; and their families for supporting them throughout the past eight months.
“We have a lot of support in our community for this program,” said Lemoore Chamber of Commerce CEO MacMurdo. “It is one of the best programs that we do at the chamber.”
The students especially wanted to thank Reece for her time and commitment to helping them in the program. They said it wasn’t easy for her, but she was always there for them. MacMurdo also expressed her gratitude for all the hard work Reece had done.
“She takes time out of her day and time out of her own personal life to work on this program,” MacMurdo said of Reece. “We are very appreciative of everything that Brittany does.”
Reece is now looking forward to the next session of YEA, which is currently taking applications. She welcomes any interested student from the Lemoore and Hanford areas to apply, so long as they can make the weekly trip to West Hills College Lemoore.