The Young Entrepreneurs Academy Class of 2014

When looking at the inaugural 2014 Class of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, YEA!, it’s easy to see why the US Chamber of Commerce chose the Clovis Chamber to be the first to present the program in California. These 11 students have the drive and passion to become successful business owners.

If these are the faces of our economic future, we can all relax.

And now, without further ado, we introduce the 2014 YEA! students.

Sean Bailey, Buchanan High School
Abagail Bonjorni, Clovis East High School
Alex Ewing, Buchanan High School
Andrea Gong, Clovis West High School
Giana Guizar, Clovis North High School
Trent Jolly, Clovis North High School
Jacob Parra, Clovis West High School
Angelica Person, Buchanan High School
Chandler, Warne, Buchanan High School
Zavier Wentz, Clovis High School
Andrew Wettstead, Clovis North High School

During the first two weeks of the course, the students have gotten to know each other and have started to brainstorm their business ideas. The white board at Willow International Community College was filled with creative thoughts including a digital guitar app, a rocket to space, a clothing line, food for third world countries and smart phone apps.

Zavier Wentz already has a product called Mochi, a delicious Japanese delicacy made of red beans encased in a soft dough. His game plan includes, “talking to local restaurants to establish clients first then move out to the Bay Area then out of state using the internet.” He’s working on packaging and costs with his business plan.

Abagail Bonjorni plans to launch a web site called Brave by Design that will have a variety of head coverings for children with cancer. Abagail explained her interest in helping others, “I have a lot of adopted siblings and a diabetic friend. We need to become aware of what’s in the world and make a difference.”

Zavier, Abagail and the others will be led along their business journey by instructor Bill Syvertsen who, in addition to owning the Tutoring Club in Clovis, started and still teaches entrepreneurship classes at Fresno City College. Bill is thrilled to work with the high school students and already has a special connection to them. He explains, “It’s truly a pleasure to work with “hungry” kids that have the entrepreneurial zeal. As Don Shula once said, “A river without banks is a puddle.” A coach’s job is to place the banks in position so that a powerful river may flow. These kids are in the process of changing the world for the better by developing success skills that will carry them through life.”

During their second class, they visited Ad-Venture Video Productions and heard from owner Ted Ruiz about running a business. Ted told his story about how he was inspired by a high school teacher to go into video technology. This led him to a 2 decade career at KSEE 24 before joining Ad-Venture Video that he bought a year later.

He told the students how to nurture their customers, network and keep their integrity. He reminded them that the market can change on a dime and they must be aware and stay ahead. “You must be more creative, strategic and proactive. And remember, you can’t be everything. You have to constantly learn new skills and delegate.”

He also spoke about assisting others. During the recent recession, he created innovative ways to offer donated and discounted services to his customers. This helped them survive and become paying customers as times improved.

Then he told them that they were going to pitch their dream business on video. He was greeted with open mouths and nervous laughter as one by one, each sat on the stool in front of the green screen and spoke into the mike. Thanks to video technology, it looked like they were behind a news desk with a city skyline over their shoulder and their names tagged below. Needless to say, those were some very short speeches.

After 30 weeks of practice in communication skills, when they return to Ad-Venture next May, their speeches will be much different.

That’s the value of the YEA! curriculum. The students learn the basics of entrepreneurship including creating a working business plan, marketing, promotion, taxes, insurance and financial literacy. But they also learn marketable skills of critical thinking, communication and common sense that are sorely needed in today’s economy. The Chamber is also giving them helpful hints to be better managers, employers and employees. They’re even going to learn the value of thank you notes.

They are encouraged by the support of their parents who participated in the interviews. In addition to familiarizing them with the program, we also wanted the parents to be partners in reinforcing the skills we’ll be teaching their kids.

Although this year’s students all attend Clovis Unified schools, the program is open to any qualified middle and high school student throughout the Valley. The Chamber will consider students for next year’s class throughout this entire year. Visit the chamber web site at or call Fran at 299-7363.

Be sure to follow the progress of our YEA! students on Facebook.

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