Young Entrepreneurs Academy: Sign up Now for November Class

By Fran Blackney
YEA! Program Manager

Do you know of a middle or high school student who is passionate about owning his/her own business? One who has a BIG Idea or who has already created a company? One who’s favorite TV show is Shark Tank?

If this describes your own student, your grandchild or the kid next door,  have them join the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, YEA!, where their dreams can come true and they can make their very own money.

Maybe they’ll be like Chandler Warne from our first class who invented an app for offsite employees to check in via their cell phones. He’s gotten a patent, has sold several to local companies and has now created another app while attending school at Cal Poly.  When she started the program, Giana Guizar was already making money selling gently used clothing that she’d customize and sell on the internet. She now has all the right skills, thousands of followers on Instagram, has registered her company and used her investor funds to buy a shed to store inventory.

From last year’s class, Charles Harris and Emily Laing traveled to Phoenix for the semi-finals. They’re ramping up for the school year with their company CEAL that sells dress code apparel. Chameleon Grips, partnered by Jessica Chilingerian, Alyssa Melillo, Sarahi Nunez and Violette Ballecer sell their decorative tennis grips at weekend tournaments and are finalizing agreements with local high schools to use their grips for the school tennis teams.

In its third year in Clovis, this 7 month after school program guides students to create, start and launch their own business. Along the way they will do extensive market research and due diligence on their idea, create a bank approved business plan and prepare for the Investor Panel where real funds are awarded based on their presentation. One business is chosen to proceed to the semi-final competition then hopefully on to Washington DC in pursuit of thousands of scholarship dollars.

Classes are held every Tuesday from 5 to 8 at Clovis Community College. The program instructors are local businessmen with extensive educational backgrounds. The students will also interact with dozens of other business people to hear advice and stories about their journeys to success.

In addition to field trips to local companies including a back stage tour of the Save Mart Center, the students take part in several Chamber events – the Annual  Membership and Awards Dinner in January, BIG Hat Days in April and the Business Expo in May. The class ends with a formal graduation attended by close to 100 local residents.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy was created by the University of Rochester in 2004 and was first presented by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce in 2013 at the request of the US Chamber of Commerce. What sets the Clovis program apart from others is the emphasis on not only business skills but also performance skills, lifetime ones that will impact students’ futures. They learn how to interview for a job, get it and keep it. They hear stories from employers about needed skills in employees and the importance of being on time. The class emphasizes critical thinking and communication skills that, according to employers, are sorely lacking in the workplace. We also stress the need for high integrity and character when engaging with other people.

The class is taught in an uplifting, supportive manner. Several students and parents have commented how much they appreciate the way that every student feels important. Adult volunteers report how much they enjoy working with these dynamic, hard working students. Several business and mentoring relationships have come out of their interactions.

Applications are now available at Just click on the testimonial video on the Home page. You can also call Fran at 299-7363.  The class is limited to 24 students who go through an interview prior to acceptance.  The deadline for applications is August 30th but interviews will take place as applications are received.

There will be an information meeting at the Clovis Chamber in OldTown on Tuesday, August 18th at 6 pm.

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