The class of 10 budding businesspeople participating in this year’s edition of the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs’ Academy will be guided by mentors with years of experience to share.
This is the second class sponsored by the chamber in a program that guides middle and high school students through the process of starting their own business. Each student business is paired with a mentor, usually a local business person who can guide students with practical knowledge of the kind of business they wish to pursue.
“It is so wonderful to see the students involved and so excited about the progress that they are making with their mentors,” said Jennifer McRae, YEA program manager. “Having that extra hand to guide them through this process is priceless to the success of their businesses.”
Topics covered in YEA sessions include developing ideas and objectives, selling ideas to investors, obtaining funding, establishing web presence, and registering with governmental agencies. Students work closely with businesspeople, community leaders, and educators in order to learn from their practical experience. Over seven weeks of meetings, mentors help students to better understand their concept, write a business plan, identify their target audience, and provide all around support.
“I love it when Mrs. Hughes says ‘flush it out,’” said YEA student Courtney Williams, a Scotland High School senior. “Mrs. Hughes tells us that all the time when we need to elaborate or add more thought to our business plan. Mrs. Hughes help in making our business is reality is wonderful.”
This year’s mentors include Deb Guess with Soul Whispers Arts, Becca Hughes with State Farm Insurance, John Ferguson, a retired community member on the chamber board, Self-Help Credit Union Manager Jim Hunt, and vocational teacher Dorothy Tyson.
“It is exciting to be involved with young people who are motivated enough to put in lots of hours learning, researching, and developing the ideas needed to get started in a new small business,” said Guess. “I could feel the positive energy in the classroom when I arrived for my first week as a mentor and it is obvious that the program connects with the interests and dreams of these youth who are involved. I imagine that the creativity and enthusiasm of these young entrepreneurs are going to have a long term benefit for the entire community. I am also fairly certain that I am probably going to learn far more as a mentor than I will be able to teach to the student with whom I am working.”
Near the end of the nine-month course, students will go before a panel of investors to seek funding for their projects with the ultimate goal of owning fully operational businesses that they can continue to develop.
Over the course of the program, more than 30 local businesses become involved with YEA at various levels. Volunteers can help teach the basics of business, invite students to tour their companies, or provide financial support for students in the form of the program fee.
For information about YEA or ways to support the program, contact Jennifer McRae at 276-7420.