Young Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas

Mique Diaz, CEO of Automating America, is among the 110 students from across the nation selected to compete in the Saunders Scholars Competition being held in Rochester, New York, on May 6.

Hundreds of business and education leaders, students and parents will gather to hear America’s top young entrepreneurs ages 11-18 pitch their business plans. The young entrepreneurs compete for the opportunity to advance to nationals to win college scholarships ranging from $25,000 - $50,000, an all-expenses paid trip to America’s Small Business Summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., and business startup prizes.  

Diaz is one of 12 students in the Aiken Young Entrepreneurs Academy of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. Each YEA! student pitched his or her business on March 22 at USC Aiken in a “Shark Tank” format to a panel of six investors. $6,000 was awarded in various amounts to each of the startups based on the student’s concept, business plan and presentation. Diaz was chosen from the group to attend the Saunders Scholars Competition.

In addition to startup funds, Elizabeth (Rosie) Cristian, CEO of Carolina Candles, and Melissa Murph, CEO of Bizzy Teens, were awarded a professionally produced commercial by WJBF.

Students have spent roughly 30-weeks working closely with business leaders, community leaders and educators to guide them as they learn to transform ideas into real, tangible companies that create economic and social value. 

“One of the most interesting components of the YEA! program is the actual behind the scenes knowledge that local business leaders are able to share with students,” said Aiken YEA! Program Manager, Mandy Collins.  “This experience is something they will be able to apply to any field they choose to enter and will provide them with the necessary skills to become future leaders of their industries.”

Aiken YEA! is open to all students in grades 6-12, and applications are currently being accepted for the 2016-2017 class. While in the Academy, students will receive all the necessary tools to launch their very own real, legal businesses. This includes access to valuable resources like attorneys, accountants, business mentors, and marketing firms; plus, an audience with investors for REAL start-up cash. 

Learn more about YEA! and how to apply by clicking here.


Investors listened to students’ business presentations at the YEA! Investor Panel event and awarded startup funds for young entrepreneurs. Pictured left to right on the front row are investors Charles Johnson, EDTS; Dorean Price, Margaret’s Garden Adult Day Care; Ike Byrd, AT&T; Fran Jones, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations; Adam Hatcher, MAU Workforce Solutions; Pete Michenfelder, WJBF.


Aiken High School:                                                                                     YEA! Sponsors

  • Breanna Burgess – Cotton Candy Crowns
  • Jamon DuBose - DuBose Designs
  • Malik Priester - BRIX
  • Lilly Segres – Vinyl Lillies
  • Tucker Segres – Kings Kakes


Augusta Preparatory Day School

  • David Heaton – Shiftwell 3D Designs


Kennedy Middle School:

  • Rosie Cristian – Carolina Candles


North Augusta Middle:

  • Gabriel Beckett - Invisipops
  • Melissa Murph – Bizzy Teens
  • Kaleb Mckie – Custom RC Bodies


Silver Bluff High School:

  • Aspen Gray – Kokua Bracelets


South Aiken High School:

  • Mique Diaz – Automating America
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