YEA! has arrived

The Aiken Chamber’s mission of getting young, aspiring entrepreneurs on the community’s horizon officially begins October 21st. On this date, 24 local students in grades 6 – 12 will begin their journey to launch their very own company and experience what it feels like to be a true entrepreneur.

Eleventh grader Anna Lipscomb said she is excited about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!). “I can’t wait to network with all the students and business people,” said Lipscomb, who keeps her ideas in a journal. “I carry my journal with me everywhere, and it’s full of potential business ideas. I am hopeful YEA! can help me make my visions a reality.”

YEA! is a nationally recognized program that transforms middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs during the academic school year. Students learn how to set up, own, and operate fully formed and functioning businesses, which may be carried on after their graduation from the program.

The Aiken Chamber and its key partners, Aiken County Public Schools and USC Aiken, were instrumental in bringing YEA! to the community. The program is the first of its kind in South Carolina.

Students accepted into the program will meet every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. for 30 weeks during the school year. There are no classes during regular school holidays and recesses.

The fun, projects-based approach includes guest speakers from local businesses, as well as dynamic field trips to local companies, as students learn how to develop and run a real enterprise.

The host location for YEA! classes is USC Aiken. Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan said she looks forward to welcoming the YEA! students. “USC Aiken is very pleased to host the very first Young Entrepreneurs Academy in the state of South Carolina! A primary focus for us at the University is partnering with our local business community, and we believe a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation is key to our future in this region. I can’t wait to hear about all of the wonderful ideas our first class of students will develop in the months ahead,”
Dr. Jordan said.

Craig Tarkenton, director of Support Services, EDTS, will be the instructor for the first 10 weeks. “I am very excited to volunteer for the YEA! program; it is a great honor to have been selected as the first instructor. As a former teacher, I am looking forward to getting back in the ‘classroom’ and working with these enthusiastic young folks and hearing their unique ideas. We will work very hard to develop not only their business and social skills but also the entrepreneurial mindset necessary to achieve great success in their future endeavors,” Tarkenton said.

Students will work closely with local business and community leaders, as well as educators, as they learn how to develop ideas and objectives, write a business plan, pitch to real investors, obtain funding, legally register their businesses, and establish e-commerce and a web presence. Students will participate in three major events throughout the year – the investor panel, trade show and a formal graduation ceremony.

The potential for lifelong success can grow exponentially as the students develop business, leadership, presentation, and social skills. Students can build their confidence level as well as improve public speaking and professional behavior.

Premier and Presenting Partners of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy are:

Local Champion
Margaret's Garden Adult Day Care

Premier Partner
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC
SRP Federal Credit Union

Investor Panelists
B & S Machine Tool, Inc.
MAU Workforce Solutions
Real Estate One
Serotta Maddocks Evans, CPAs

Program/Scholarship Partners
DayBreak Adult Care Services
Mobile Office Management, LLC
People Solutions, J.B. Chun and Associates
State Farm Insurance (Denny Michaelis)
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center

Follow the inaugural class of Aiken YEA! on Facebook and watch these students bring their dreams to reality.


The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a groundbreaking program that transforms local middle and high school students into real entrepreneurial success stories through an exciting, projects-based approach. Complete with the involvement of successful entrepreneurs as guest speakers and field trip hosts, the dynamic program teaches students how to launch and run their own real businesses. 

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy can be found in communities nationwide today. 

Below, take a look at the positive impact of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy: 

• 100% of academy graduates graduate high school on time.
• 99% of academy graduates enroll in college.
• 19% of YEA! students start second businesses.
• 50% of YEA! students continue business for more than 1 year.
• 49% of YEA! students are female.
• 56% of YEA! students are under-represented minorities.
• 42% of YEA! students matriculate to the host institution when hosted on a college campus.
• YEA! students have been awarded over a half million dollars in scholarships as a result of their involvement in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.
• 1,384 students have graduated from YEA! and have launched 1,093 enterprises. 

Embrace Your Passion. Live Your Dream. Change the World.




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