LEMOORE — Students are getting firsthand experience in what it’s like to start a business while attending Lemoore Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!).
This is the second year the Chamber has sponsored YEA!, which was started 14 years ago at the University of Rochester in New York, said program manager Brittany Reece. She said YEA! is a 29-week program for sixth- through 12th-graders that will conclude in May. She said West Hills College Lemoore has let the program use its facilities and laptops and have been a huge help and support.
Reece said during the course of the program, students take field trips and learn business principles from business mentors in the community. She said students have all come up with an idea for a business and are working on creating business plans.
On Thursday, Reece said the students will attend a CEO Roundtable that is open to the public. She said the students will get to “pick the brains” of local business and get tips on how to run a successful business.
Saylor Lopez, 17, is a junior at Lemoore Middle College High School who heard about the program at school. She said her favorite part of the program so far has been meeting the mentors and getting their take on owning businesses.
“Our mentors are really cool,” Lopez said. “They make everything more laid-back.”
Lopez’s company idea is called Loud Mouth Karaoke. She said her idea is a special karaoke trailer available for people to rent for their events. Inside the trailer will be everything needed to host a karaoke night. She said the trailer will also have the capability to turn into a stage for big parties and events.
Lopez said ever since she was a little girl she wanted to be an entrepreneur and was glad when she heard about the program. She said she feels like she is learning a lot from YEA!— even more than just business principles — because her communication skills have grown. She said she is excited about the CEO Roundtable on Thursday.
Steven Gong, 18, a senior at LMCHS and is launching Go Go Lunchbox. Go Go Lunchbox is a healthy lunchbox delivery service. His idea is made for people who may want a healthy lunch, but might not have time to step away from their desks.
Gong said he first heard about the YEA! program at his back-to-school night at the high school. He said both his father and grandfather are entrepreneurs and small business owners, so he already had an interest in becoming an entrepreneur as well.
Gong said he believes opening a business in any career field requires knowledge in business and finance. After high school, he said he plans on pursuing a career in the dental field and opening his own private practice someday. He said he believes the YEA! program is a good first step in gaining the necessary knowledge and skills he will need to manage his own business.
Gong said his favorite part of the program so far has been learning about and working on his business plans, which he said are essential to set a base and guideline for his business.
“I felt that it was rewarding to watch as my business idea slowly came together into one whole as I worked on my own business plan,” Gong said.
Breanna Monsivaiz, a freshman at LMCHS, said she learned about the program from a friend and also at back-to-school night. She said she was never particularly interested in entrepreneurship, but she thought the program sounded “cool” and wanted to explore her options.
Monsivaiz said the beginning of the program was difficult when the class had to brainstorm business ideas, but it got better because the class had fun hearing each other’s ideas and collaborating together. So far, she said she is enjoying the program, especially because there are other students in the class and they can help each other out.
Monsivaiz is developing a company called Giplo. She said her first product is an expandable duffle bag. She said the bags will have expandable sides for those days when a little extra room is needed for the items people have collected throughout the day.
Not only are the business mentors helping the students with their business plans, Monsivaiz said she and the class are learning the basic business principles of different industries, including graphic design, insurance and the restaurant industries.
Monsivaiz said she is glad to be involved in a program like YEA! for the opportunities, experience and a better understanding of different business aspects. Of all the benefits of the program, she said the most important is “definitely knowledge.”
At Thursday’s CEO Roundtable, Monsivaiz said what she is hoping to gain most from the business owners is motivation. She said she knows starting a business isn’t easy, and she wants to learn from people who have succeeded
“If they can do it, I can do it,” Monsivaiz said. “We all have to start somewhere.”
Reece said that in March, the students will have their business plans ready to present to possible investors. The investor panel is made up of local business owners who will listen to the presentations and decide if they want to invest in the students’ businesses. Reece said the students are only asking for basic starter costs, nothing more than $1,000. If students receive funding, they go into the launch phase, if not, she said they rework their business plans.
Reece said with funding, students can begin selling their products or services. At their trade show in May, she said students will present their businesses to another investor panel and an overall winner will be chosen. That winner will have an opportunity to compete against hundreds of other YEA! students across the country.
When students graduate from YEA! they are no longer connected to the program, Reece said, adding they can continue with their businesses or choose not to continue. Either way, she said they have learned empowering lessons from the business world.
“We’ve created a foundation for the rest of their lives,” Reece said. “We’re showing them that they don’t have to be a certain age to launch a business."