Local students start businesses through Young Entrepreneurs Academy

Updated: 04/24/2014 8:24 AM
Created: 04/03/2014 4:22 PM WHEC.com
By: Janet Lomax

They are doing much more than setting up lemonade stands. Students in grades six through 12 are writing business plans and competing for startup capital from investors to launch their own businesses.

It's all part of Young Entrepreneurs Academy, which was started in Rochester and now going on in 31 states.

At an event at the U of R, partners Justin Delinois from McQuaid, Chelsea Kuhn from Churchville-Chili and Patrick Dioguardi from Rush-Henrietta high schools have six minutes to convince a panel of investors to provide financial support for  their business, Dioguardi Pens. Patrick learned how to make the pens from his grandpa, who is a wood turner. But you can tell Patrick is a good salesman too as he describes a one-of-a-kind pen made from some very old wood, and another from a Red Wings baseball bat.

In all, 32 students representing 19 businesses competed in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy or YEA! Students in middle and high school spend a year learning how to start and run their own real businesses.

Sara Bukowiec, with YEA! said, "They do anything that an adult would do, they write a business plan, they get funding, they actually launch these real companies. They've been working hard all year long and this investor panel is where the rubber meets the road for them."

It's exciting for the students.

Justin Delinois said, "Some of the stuff they teach you is some of the stuff my mom was learning for her Master's in college."

It is exciting for the judges too. Daniel Mejak from Parkleigh calls it impressive.

He said  "They're young people who have to go to adults and ask for money and prove why they're worthy of that money. It really is incredible."

The partners at Dioguardi pens would love some financial backing, but say the YEA! experience is much more than that. 

Chelsea Kuhn said, "Even if you decide you don't want to go into business, it's a great opportunity and it helps you grow up a lot and see what it it's really like in the real world."

When the event was over, Dioguardi Pens ended up with just over $800 in financial backing and a chance to sell their pens at Parkleigh.

Another team, Phoenix Haberdashery, moves on to the Saunders Scholars Competition on May 2 in Rochester. They'll compete with students from across the country for college scholarships. 

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