Our Young Entrepreneurs Have Graduated

May was a busy month for the Young Entrepreneurs that culminated with a graduation ceremony on June 3rd.

On May 9th, Chandler Warne traveled to Frisco, Texas with CEO Mark Blackney to participate in the Regional Finals for the Saunders Scholarship competition. Chandler presented his company, SPOT to the judge’s panel but unfortunately wasn’t chosen to go on to the finals in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, he represented Clovis well.

While there, he participated in a Speed Networking session and met many potential customers who were interested in his company that is a web based check-in system for offsite employees to contact the home office. His is different than any other in the market and is being patented and used by companies in the Valley already. In Texas, he was able to meet with the General Manager of the Dallas Mavericks who was intrigued with his business.

This wasn’t the first competition for Chandler this year. Two weeks earlier he was in St. Louis as the CEO of the Buchanan Robotics team competing for the national championships. Chandler just graduated and is headed to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo where he’ll major in computer technology and business management. We know he’ll take the college by storm.

In the YEA! class in May, students learned about filing their DBA’s, sales and income taxes and obtaining their business licenses. A highlight was a behind the scenes tour of the SaveMart Center.

They also prepared for the trade show held at the Sierra Vista Mall. Instructor Rick Snow, owner of Snowflake Designs, travels cross country taking part in national trade shows so he was able to give the students a great tutorial on trade shows. They obviously listened because their booths at the mall on May 31st were first class. They were able to interact with the public and sell their products. Several parents and students also learned about the YEA! program from Mark Blackney.

The graduation on June 3rd was a special evening. Supervisor Debbie Poochigian hosted the event held at the Classic Catering Banquet Hall in Old Town. The dessert reception was attended by about 60 people including the students, their parents, business leaders and representatives from our elected representatives.

The evening started out with Mark Blackney talking about the impact of the YEA! program and our plans for the future. He also presented a power point of the students throughout the year.

Ben Berquam, field representative for Assemblyman Jim Patterson and owner of Ground Force Fitness spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship and YEA!. Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck then talked about the need to work with our younger people so they are able to improve the economy. She is so impressed with the YEA! program and the students that she is considering starting a business incubator in Clovis for younger entrepreneurs. Of course, the Chamber will be on board.

Then, Program Manager Fran Blackney introduced the amazing students:

  • Abagail Bonjorni who sells knitted and crocheted accessories while donating a portion of the profits to foster care programs. Her company is Brave by Design
  • Alex Ewing who has created a phone app and hopes to hold classes to teach the young and old how to use social media. His company is Kids 4 Innovative Design
  • Andrew Wettstead has created a smartphone case with a tether that attaches to your belt. This will prevent the phone from falling on the ground and breaking. His company is Smart Gadgets
  • Chandler Warne created SPOT, the web based check in system for offsite employees.
  • Giana Guizar sells denim shorts that she has added “bling” and other features in her company Day Dreamers Apparel. She has 18,000 followers on Instagram
  • Angelica Person who plans to open a chain of hotels after receiving her MBA
  • Trent Jolly who partnered with Giana on her Day Dreamers Apparel company

Each student received a YEA! tote bag filled with gifts from the Chamber and Clovis Chamber members. They also received certificates from Congressman Devin Nunes, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, State Senator Tom Berryhill, Supervisor Poochigian and the City of Clovis.

The students who spoke to the audience on June 3rd were not the same students that started in November. These were self-confident, had good eye contact and spoke confidently. As Alex said, “I wouldn’t be able to stand up her and talk to you if it wasn’t for YEA!”. The transformation over the 30 week course is amazing. That’s why every parent is so appreciative.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is the most extensive course in the Central Valley. The students don’t just learn about business plans, they create professional business plans critiqued by a bank manager. They learn about insurance, taxes, finances, legal issues, marketing, e-commerce and even meet with the media. They also interact with over 3 dozen business people. The students mention that as one of the favorite parts of YEA! especially when they hear about mistakes and failures and how they are overcome. As Trent said, “I learned it’s okay to fail. That’s how you learn”.

Interest is building for next year’s class as parents are e-mailing and calling the Chamber. We are accepting applications throughout the summer and will conduct interviews on a rolling basis. Visit the chamber web site at www.clovischamber.com or call Fran Blackney at 299-7363 for information.

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