YEA! for business mentors

Ideas are gelling, business plans are being written, and students in the Aiken Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) are getting excited. The telltale date is set for March 24, the night the students will present their business plans to the panel of investors.

Several local business people have been meeting with the students since January to help them prepare for the big night. The mentors coach, encourage, and listen as students talk about their plans. They help the students understand their business ideas better, write a business plan, identify their target audience, and provide overall support.

“I am encouraged to see so many young people who are focused, motivated, and creative,” said local SCORE counselor Mike Farmer.

Farmer volunteered to be a mentor because he wanted to give back and serve others. “I want to be an example of a servant leader to help influence young people toward adopting that type of leadership style,” he said.

Kristen Sojourner, My Aiken Body Restorative Massage, signed on to mentor because she wanted to make a difference. “I volunteered because with my background in education, I am always looking for constructive, meaningful ways to teach kids authentically. I wish I had been given this opportunity when I was young,” Sojourner said.

Ron Felder, Service Master Janitorial of CSRA, said he felt honored to be asked to be a part of something special. “To be able to share knowledge with young people is always a great thing. Preparing them for the future and possibly saving them from making a few mistakes makes it even better,” he said.

Many of the mentors were surprised by how much they learned by working with the young, aspiring entrepreneurs.

Laura DiSano, Aiken Area Small Business Development Center, said, “As adults in a world which seems to always emphasize the negative, this experience contributes to my own positive attitude and creates a sense of hope for the future as I watch these young people create and build their dreams. I took more away than what I gave.”

Still others felt a sense of affirmation for decisions they had made.

USCA student Mikalah Ramey is grateful for the opportunity to mentor. “These bright students reminded me why I wanted to major in business when I enrolled at USCA almost four years ago. They have reawakened my own excitement to become an entrepreneur.”

John Hyder, HOLE-N-ONE Family Fun Center, summed up his YEA! mentoring experience from an economic perspective. “Our children, the future leaders of our country, will be required to have an entrepreneurial mindset to compete for financial balance. As community leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, we are responsible for fostering, promoting and mentoring our youth to set them up for success.”

Follow Aiken YEA! on Facebook to view photos.

YEA! Business Mentors

Thom Abbott
Southside Gallery

Cody Anderson
George Funeral Home and Cremation Center

Byron Bush
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC
Bright & Bold Entertainment

Chris Dickson
The George Group, LLC

Laura DiSano
Aiken Area Small Business Development Center

Mike Farmer

Ron Felder
Service Master Janitorial of CSRA

Brandon Hilderbrand
USC Aiken Student

Chris Hyder
JC’s Seafood

John Hyder
HOLE-N-ONE Family Fun Center

Hugh Johnston

Katy Lipscomb
Material Things

Diane Mangiante
Forward Road, LLC

Mikalah Ramey
USC Aiken Student

Michael Seufert
USC Aiken Student

Kristen Sojourner
My Aiken Body Restorative Massage

Andrew Ward
USC Aiken Student

Fran Warner
Rodan and Fields

Kevin White
Health & Safety Solutions, Inc.
Mead Hall Episcopal School


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