The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is taking applications from Scotland County students who want to do more than just learn about the business world.
YEA! will accept applications on a rolling basis through August. The program began last year and graduated its first class in June, in the process creating a dozen new small businesses in Scotland County.
“I would tell future entrepreneurs that it is a wonderful program; you will have a lot to do and some things you will struggle for, but it is worth it,” said Abby Tremblay, a member of YEA’s class of 2012. “YEA! gives students the opportunity to turn their dreams into a reality and their passion into a business.”
The program, the only one of its kind in North Carolina, is offered through a partnership between the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce and the Scotland County Schools. Students entering grades 6-12 may apply, and may attend public, private, or home school, provided that they reside in Scotland County.
YEA! classes meet on Tuesday afternoons while school is in session, beginning on Oct. 2, on the campus of St. Andrews University. Students will begin by learning the basics of business and, with the guidance of instructors and local professionals, work to turn their business ideas into reality.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to grow and to learn how to create a business from the brainstorming process all the way through to having their own bank account and tax identification number,” said Jen McRae, YEA! co-director.
McRae, a graphic designer, is working with the chamber in organizing YEA! She will be joined in the directing role by a school employee replacing Toni Blount, who directed the program with chamber workforce development coordinator Brenda Gilbert last year.
The businesses created by the first class of YEA! students reflected their own interests, ranging from social media and handmade jewelry to alternative energy sources.
“Our daughter’s experience in YEA! has helped her balance her creative gifts with structured and disciplined planning and problem-solving,” said Lisa Canada, whose daughter Essie worked with another student to start a photography company. “Through her work in YEA!, she is developing the skills to take a natural talent and turn it into a professional venture.”
The program fee of $295 may be offset by scholarships, and includes several field trips to area businesses throughout the year. Repeat field trips from the 2011-2012 year include a Fayetteville zipline, the Aberdeen Mellow Mushroom restaurant, and local clothing retailers for extreme business makeovers.
Class sessions will incorporate instruction from business advisory professionals from graphic designers to tax accountants so that students are introduced to a complete view of what is required to start a successful business.
“It encourages their growth and maturity level,” McRae said. “We saw the kids grow not only in the way they understand how a business works - their presentation skills and the way they communicate with adults also improved dramatically.”
The application process includes an essay portion and recommendation from a teacher, church, or athletic leader who knows the student well. Once applications are processed, interviews will be conducted after the school year begins.
The first class graduated 20 young entrepreneurs, and the program will aim for a similar class size this year. With students ranging from 6th graders to high school seniors, the youngest students were among those who experienced the most personal growth.
“I think the best quote was from a student - she said she was extremely nervous and a little bit scared of the older kids, but as the year went on she grew immensely in terms of her presentation skills and being able to talk to people,” McRae said. “She was able to communicate very well by the end of the class. She started off very shy but really grew through her presentations in her oral communication skills.”
Applications may be downloaded at http://www.laurinburgchamber.com/yea.cfm or picked up at the Chamber of Commerce on Atkinson Street. For information, call Jennifer McRae at 276-7420.