Young Entrepreneurs Receive Funding

By Fran Blackney
YEA! Program Manager

During the second class of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, YEA! program, the students visited Ad-Venture Video to hear from owner Ted Ruiz about running a small business. He surprised the kids by putting them in front of a camera and told them to deliver a 2 minute speech about their companies. Most could barely speak 2 sentences let alone fill up 2 minutes of air time.

Flash forward to April 9th at the Investor Panel. The six entrepreneurs pitched their products with self-confidence, good eye contact and communication skills that any speech coach would be proud of. And it was hard getting them to stay within the six minute time limit.

What happened between those two dates is why the YEA! Program is so successful and important to kids who are passionate about becoming entrepreneurs. They had intense hands on training on writing professional business plans and met with dozens of local business owners who told them about their real life experiences.

For the past 2 months, they’ve practiced their pitches. Their coaches were Instructor Rod Geist who majored in public speaking and Chamber CEO, Mark Blackney, who is a trained actor. Between the two, the students received professional training. And it paid off, literally.

At the Investor Panel, each pitched his/her products and services to four local CEO’s. Judging their performances were Deborah McHenry Christiansen, owner of Pinnacle Auto Sales, Layla Forstedt, CEO of the Fresno Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lydia Shaw, VP of Central Valley Community Bank and Rod Silver, CEO of ARTCO, a local web design company in Clovis.

Abagail Bonjorni presented her knitted accessories sold by her company Brave by Design. She donates a portion of each sale to a Foster Child Organization. Alex Ewing owner of Kids4Innovative Design, described his education program and apps to help the young and old master the art of social media. Andrew Wettstedt created the Smart Tether that prevents your cell phone from falling to the ground and breaking. Giana Guizar and her partner Trent Jolly presented DayDreamApparel, her online denim shorts company that is already turning a nice profit. Chandler Warne finished the program with his company SPOT that allows off site employees to check in with headquarter using their cell phones.

The judges then considered funding the companies. Each had a set amount to spend and knew what each student requested. The four listed individual amounts that were then compiled for the final total.

Abagail received $800, Alex and Andrew $600, Giana and Trent $1250 and Chandler was allocated $1550. Some received what they requested, some less and some more but all were happy with the results.

One more announcement was made that evening, Chandler Warne was chosen to represent Clovis in Frisco, Texas in May at the semi-finals for the Spaulding Scholarship Competition. Hopefully, he’ll continue on to New York for the nationals.

Despite all the hard work in presenting YEA!, it has been very satisfying especially when hearing from the students and the parents.

Chandler commented, “One of the best things about the YEA! Program is learning how to run a business in the real world. I started my first business in the sixth grade and now I have the skills to actually run one. Beyond learning new skills, I have met plenty of business leaders in our community allowing me to learn what being a real business owner is like as well as creating invaluable connections with them. This experience has opened many doors and possibilities for me, my future and my business.”

Abagail tells us, “The Investor Panel was an intense and incredible experience. This class has opened my eyes to the business world and I have fallen in love. I now realize I will never be satisfied working for someone else’s dream when the YEA! experience has provided me with the knowledge and confidence to achieve mine.”

The YEA! program is the most extensive and intensive entrepreneurship program in the Central Valley. It is a 30 week after school class that is meant only for those students with the entrepreneurial passion. It takes a lot of extra work but to our students, it wasn’t work, it was fun. They have dutifully shown up every week and followed the curriculum. The business knowledge and skills they have learned will last a lifetime.

The Clovis Chamber is now accepting applications for next year’s class that will start in October. Middle and high school students from the Valley are eligible to start the interview process. Contact Fran Blackney at[email protected].

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