More than a dozen future business owners are a bit richer after the fourth annual Young Entrepreneurs Academy Investor Panel on Tuesday night at Penn State Schuylkill.
YEA! is a 30-week program in which middle school and high school students learn all aspects of founding and running a business.
The program runs from November through May. During that time, students generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans and prepare to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in hopes of taking home a portion of the $9,000 purse. The ideas ranged from online services to homemade products.
YEA! was started in 2004 and came to Schuylkill County in 2014. The first class in the county graduated in 2015.
In addition to the money, one student is selected as the Saunders Scholar winner, in which he or she travels to Rochester University in New York and competes with other YEA! winners. Eight finalists are chosen by a judges panel and will compete for the national title of 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year. The title includes a scholarship to Rochester University and mentoring to develop business idea from entrepreneur and philanthropist Phil Saunders.
Audience members could also vote for the People’s Choice Award winner via texting after all the businesses had been presented and the judges made their final decisions.
In the end, Lily Stoyer, Schuylkill Haven, was selected as a recipient of $1,500 and the Saunders Scholar winner.
“I was very surprised and extremely happy. I thought it was one huge step in a direction that’s going to shape the rest of my future. Now I’ll have a few weeks to work on my business and develop my website,” Stoyer said.
Stoyer’s winning idea was to create a nonprofit company/website called Project Love that acts as a matchmaker for charities, donors and recipients. The idea came from Stoyer’s wish to pay it forward, give back and help others. Now she has about five weeks to improve her presentation before competing in New York on May 4.
“That’s going to be the most amazing experience,” Stoyer said.
Caleb Shaner was the other $1,500 winner and was selected as the People’s Choice Award winner after presenting his idea, Precision Targets, where he would manufacture and sell portable target stands for rifles and other firearms. The stand would be 3 feet tall and have two bases with two 2-by-4 pieces of wood between the bases. Paper targets can hang from the top beam and the bottom beam can hold bottles, cans and other targets. The entire structure would be made of plastic polymer, which helps fulfill Shaner’s goal of having a stand that is portable, durable, lightweight and low-cost.
“There’s nothing like it on the market,” Shaner, New Ringgold, said.
Mary Jo Moss, the YEA! program manager, said this event gives students “an incredible body of knowledge” to work with in the future, even if they choose to go a different route after high school or college.
The next step for students is to use the money earned Tuesday and put it toward either making an actual product or improving the service so visitors can see what is on the market at the trade fair May 12 in Saint Clair.
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