By Fran Blackney
YEA! Program Manager
Every Tuesday evening, 24 aspiring entrepreneurs meet at Clovis Community College to learn more about starting and running a business. By creating partnerships, we now have 10 potential new companies as the students work together to create their start-ups.
They have spent these two months doing their due diligence through market research, surveys, exploring demographics and investigating similar products. Some have realized that their ideas won’t work for the course and have partnered up with other students. Others have refined and altered their ideas in response to the research.
Every week, each business presents its progress to the class and answers many questions from fellow students and Instructor Bill Syvertsen. Some questions receive immediate answers while others send the owners back to the drawing board. By early January, the businesses will be on their way.
The main component of the class is the creation of a business plan. Students have a template to complete and each week learn the basics for each component. This project takes about 3 months to complete as they will receive critiques from various plan reviewers. The final review will be performed by Rod Geist and Lydia Shaw of Central Valley Community Bank. That means the students will have bank approved plans. That’s more than most long time businesses accomplish.
In mid-January, the companies will be assigned a one-on-one mentor from the many adult volunteers who have stepped up to work with the students. They will meet weekly to oversee the students’ progress and act as sounding boards.
The series of business specialists will start speaking at each class. An accountant, insurance agent, attorney and experts in marketing and social media will be holding discussions each week. The students will also meet their graphic and website designers who will put the finishing touches on their marketing efforts.
All of this is in preparation for the Investor Panel in March where the teams will present their business plans and do their pitches about their products and services. One will be chosen to fly to Texas for the semi-regional scholarship competition.
On December 16th, the students heard from Chandler Warne who was the chamber’s representative in Texas last year. His business SPOT is an application for offsite employees to check in to the home office. Chandler has his patent but is currently concentrating on his first year at Cal Poly. He spoke to the students about keeping up with the work and completing the business plan. He also told them how lucky there were to take this class. We continue to tell them about performance skills and how to get and keep jobs. They hear employer stories and surveys about the quality of work that employees are doing. In December we spoke at length about the proper use of electronic communications and controlling the messages in e-mails and in social media. The SONY hacking case was discussed at length. The bottom line is to never put in print anything that could show up in court or get you fired. We sure hope they’re listening.
The Chamber wants to thank PGE and The Advance Group owned by member Stan Skiba for their generous contributions to the YEA! program. They are added to the long list of Valley businesses that are supporting our economic future through these students.