Young Entrepreneurs begin brainstorming

Twenty-four enthusiastic students gathered at USC Aiken for the first class of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) on October 28. The session marked the beginning of a 30 week journey to transform the 11-18 year-olds from students into CEOs of their own companies.

Craig Tarkenton, EDTS, LLC, is the instructor for the first ten weeks of class. He is working with the students to brainstorm new ideas and develop students’ existing ideas, into viable business opportunities. “The enthusiasm and passion these students show for their ideas is contagious. It is exciting to be a part of these businesses at the start. It will be interesting to see how these ideas are brought to the business community in 30 weeks,” said Tarkenton.

 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.

As part of the program, students generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors, and launch their very own companies.

The YEA! program is designed to help students explore business opportunities around their passions and talents. Some students attend YEA! classes with a business idea already in mind; others simply know they want to give something a try but are not sure what. Matthew Travis, a senior at South Aiken High School, is one of those students. “I started selling fat lighter when I was 10.  I have worked for a catering business, and I interned at a financial firm this past summer.  Even with those experiences, I am not sure what business I will start with Yea!; however, I am excited about the program.” Travis said.

The brainstorming is just the beginning stage. On the horizon for the students in YEA! is learning the basics of a business plan: market research, SWOT analysis, strategies and implementation, and financial analysis.

“Being an entrepreneur is not an easy process, but I think it will be worth it,” says Mariana Curry, a 14-year-old student at Midland Valley High School.

The Aiken YEA! class meets weekly on the campus of USCA. Aiken YEA! is a partnership of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, USC Aiken, and Aiken County Public Schools. Aiken YEA! is sponsored by:

Champion Sponsors:


Margaret's Garden Adult Daycare

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


Mobile Office Management


State Farm Insurance - Denny Michaelis


Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center 

Rotary Club of Aiken

SCORE of Aiken

Hospitality Sponsor

Aiken Regional Medical Centers/ARAMARK 

Transportation Sponsor

City of Aiken 

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