YEA! students to pitch to local investors

The biggest test of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) inaugural class is a mere 26 days away, and the excitement is building.

March 24 is the date the young upstarts will take center stage to present their business plans before a panel of local industry leaders and a public audience (think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice meets American Idol). It will be the culmination of weeks of classroom instruction, field trips, and guest speakers for the YEA! students. The students will be seeking funding for their new business.
“We are looking forward to presenting our business, Clothing Queen, to the investors,” said YEA! student Sarah Yeargin. “We have spent many hours preparing our business plan and presentation and are excited to share it with the investors.” Yeargin and fellow YEA! student Laura Garcia are the CEOs of Clothing Queen.
“I am gaining valuable knowledge about how to start a business in YEA! I am hopeful that my hard work will pay off and the investors will fund my business,” said Robert Morris, CEO of his new business SURGE.
Nineteen students in grades 6 through 12, representing 12 businesses and social movements will present their business plans to the investor panel. Based on the appeal and merit of the students’ plans and presentations, representatives from companies, such as EDTS, LLC., B & S Machine Tool, Manpower, and MAU Workforce Solutions, will determine the amount of funds to allocate to each business or social movement.

“It is an honor to be able to give back to young students whose passions drive their day-to-day ambitions,” said Theresa Swafford, Manpower. “Someday the YEA! students are going to be giving back to our community, so supporting them now is more important than ever,” Swafford said.

The participating investors will also select the one business group that will advance to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Saunders Scholars National College Scholarship competition, where they will compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, a fast-track application pass to apply to be on ABC’s Shark Tank, and an all-expenses paid trip to attend America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, DC, courtesy of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

The YEA! students have been attending class three hours a week since last October. Intensity picked up in January with the big day getting closer. The students knew they had to prepare for their six-minute pitch to the local business community. What was once a business idea had to be put on paper and developed into a formal business plan, a task the students learned as they worked with volunteer business mentors. (See related story on page 7.)

Student Kizzy Robinson worked with Fran Warmer, Rodan and Fields, on her business plan.

“Having a business professional to work one-on-one with me on my business plan has been very helpful. The knowledge Ms. (Fran) Warner and the others share with our class is something we would not be able to obtain in a regular classroom environment,” said
Kizzy Robinson, CEO, Kizzy Lips.

“The students have accomplished a difficult and time consuming task,” said Mandy Collins, VP of Economic Vitality for the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and
coordinator of YEA!.

“I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to face a panel of investors as a middle or high school student. I applaud these YEA! students. They are excited and ready to enter the business world,” Collins said.
Sponsors of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy are:

Champion Sponsors:

Premier Sponsors:
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC
SRP Federal Credit Union

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

Program/Scholarship Sponsors
DayBreak Adult Care Services
Greater Aiken SCORE
Judy Boyle Chun – Vistage International
Mobile Office Management
Rotary Club of Aiken
State Farm Insurance - Denny Michaelis
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center

Hospitality Sponsor
Aiken Regional Medical Centers & Aramark

Transportation Sponsor
City of Aiken

The investor panel event is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Etherredge Center on the USC Aiken campus beginning at 6 p.m. on March 24. The emcee for the evening will be J. David Jameson, president and CEO, Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.

The YEA! students’ last requirement of the program is to introduce their new business. The Aiken Chamber will host a trade show for the students at the May1st First Friday Means Business, a monthly breakfast held for Aiken Chamber members.


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. YEA! aims to teach students at an early age how to make a job, not just take a job.

Students in YEA! learn how to generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors, and launch their very own companies. The program is designed to help students explore business opportunities around their passions and talents.

The local Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), which launched last spring, is the first of its kind in South Carolina. Partners of the program include the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, Aiken County Public Schools, and the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Aiken County public, private, charter, and home-schooled students in grades 6 through 12 can apply for the 2015-2016 program, which will begin in October. Visit for details.

YEA! Class of 2014-2015

Evan Boddy - South Aiken High School
Phillip Collins – Kennedy Middle School

Mariana Curry – Midland Valley High School
My’Asia Davis – New Ellenton Middle School
Reid DeMass – Aiken High School
Dalton Dunson – Aiken Middle School
Toby Fulmer – Aiken High School
Laura Garcia – Aiken High School
Kennedy Haley – South Aiken High School
Chase Jackson – Aiken High School
Anna Lipscomb – Aiken High School
Robert Morris – Schofield Middle School
Anna Newton – Home School
Asher Parson – Paul Knox Middle School
Jacqueline Phillips – North Augusta High School
Kizzy Robinson – Aiken High School
Jack Serkiz – Aiken High School
Max Serkiz – Aiken High School
Cassie Wright – South Aiken High School
Sarah Yeargin – Aiken High School



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