The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA!) students did not miss a beat finishing up their year, despite the pandemic.
YEA! Is a 26-week program that teaches kids how to start and run their own business. Through the period, they wrote a personalized business plan with the help of mentors, met weekly learning from various local business professionals and took field trips for hands-on engagement.
When it became unsafe to meet in person, the forward thinking 11-18-year-olds eagerly continued classes virtually through Zoom.us lead by Program Director, Betty Morgan.
“2019-20 YEA! year will likely be one we will always remember because of COVID-19! However, our YEA! students rose to the occasion, like true entrepreneurs looking for ways to overcome obstacles. Virtual presentations were not my ideal opportunity, but it worked!” said Morgan.
To complete the program, each student gave a shark-tank style virtual pitch to a panel of investors competing for real start-up money. The judges received each presentation digitally along with a final copy of the corresponding business plan.
Judges included: Clinton Beeland, CJB Industries
Jason VanNus- Lowndes County Schools
Jonathan Miller- Miller Hardware
Charlie Barnes IV- Barnes Drug Store
Jeff Shipley- ENACTUS /VSU Langdale College of Business
Dr. Alex Alvarez- Valdosta City Schools
“I was especially impressed with the adaptability of each student who pitched their business plan via remote recording under the current circumstances,” shared Miller. “It couldn’t be a more fitting time to place an emphasis on the importance of supporting American entrepreneurship. These students expressed a natural drive that reassures a positive outlook for the business environment of the future.”
The awards were announced virtually to all students, parents, and mentors by Betty Morgan.
Chassity Dennis, CEO of Uniquely Made by Chass was named the overall winner earning $1,500 in start-up funds and a full-paid trip to Rochester, NY in August to compete nationally.
Dennis is the daughter of Tiffany and Warren Burgess III. She is a Freshman at Valdosta High School where she served this year as the Class President.
Uniquely Made by Chass is a unique handmade boutique that makes high quality silk bonnets for hair care.
“I came up with this idea because I like to see everyone happy for themselves in their own way,” Denis shared.
Eli Moore was awarded second place earning $1,000 in start-up funds for his business, X-EL.
X-EL is a dog silencer shaker that is also fashionable.
“All dog owners will need this in their lives so that they do not have to deal with their dogs barking all while blending in with the rest of their home décor,” Moore explained.
Moore is the 12-year-old son of Amanda and Jamie Griffin. He is a 6th grader at Pine Grove Middle School.
All other businesses were also successful in earning $500 each in start-up funds. They include:
Deandre Clark, CEO of PoDogWa,
Addison Hasty, CEO of Game Tent,
Nalani Hasty, CEO of Jot Pots,
Rebecca Lancaster, CEO of The Key to Magic,
Jermarion Robinson and Emily Withers, CEOs of Claw Time,
Brooklyn Starr, CEO of Brooklyn’s Bouquet,
Diamond Willis, CEO of LaShanda’s Salon.
Though the classes are complete, all the students plan to continue pursuing their businesses.
“We are so happy with all the support we have received from our community. A big thank you goes to everyone which includes mentors, guest speakers, field trip participates, graphic designers, who is a part of making YEA! a success story in our area,” said Morgan.
YEA! Pitch Event could not have been possible without our sponsors:
ENACTUS/VSU Langdale College of Business
Valdosta City Schools
CJB Industries, Inc.
Barnes Healthcare Services
Lowndes County Schools
Virtual World Technologies, Inc.
For more information on YEA!, contact Betty Morgan at the Valdosta Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hard to keep a group as active as the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber Ambassadors apart. This bunch was thrilled to proceed with their scheduled quarterly awards ceremony… virtually, that is.
The Chamber Ambassadors is a group of 39 individuals who attend nearly all Chamber events including ribbon cuttings, ground breakings and leading business of the week celebrations. They are described as our “Chamber Cheerleaders” and are always happy to welcome new businesses and celebrate the old.
The group is easily spotted in their green blazers which represent prosperity in the business community.
The Chamber Ambassador program is made possible with the help of its sponsor, Biotest Plasma Center.
“Supporting the Chamber Ambassador program is an integral piece of our community engagement strategy,” shared Erik Karpicke, Biotest’s Center Manager. “Through the Ambassador program we get to welcome our neighbors, ensure they get started on the right foot in the community, and it helps our overall business grow as well, it is a no brainer for us.”
To recognize their achievements and volunteered hours in the first quarter of the year, the Ambassadors were able to join together from their respective homes through Zoom, a virtual meeting platform.
The social group was thrilled to be able to interact with one another for the first time in nearly a month.
Lauren Pope, the Chambers Ambassador Program Coordinator virtually presented the awards beginning with recognizing the newest Ambassadors.
To become “official,” one must earn a minimum of 100 points. Points are earned through event attendance, referrals and other deeds. At this landmark, the individual receives their Chamber Ambassador name badge.
Three Ambassadors reached this status in the first quarter of 2020” Joni Berkel (Miss Kate’s Tours & Kate’s Kitchen), Karlee Dixon (Chicken Salad Chick) and Robin Salisbury (Langdale Place).
The three newest members are excited to be a part of such an influential group.
“As an Ambassador, I not only get to meet new people in our community, but I get the chance to support local businesses in new ways,” shared Salisbury. “I am incredibly thankful that my employer supports and encourages my involvement with the Ambassadors,” she added.
Deanna Smith of the Investment Centre was named Ambassador of the Quarter. She earned the most points in the first quarter of 2020 out of the entire group.
Smith has been an Ambassador for nearly 3 years.
My experience as an Ambassador has made me feel so connected to our community,” Smith shared. “From the relationships developed with the other Ambassadors to getting a front row seat celebrating the successes of our local businesses, it continues to be one of the most rewarding things I have done.”
You may not physically see the Ambassadors out and about for the time being, but you can trust they are cheering you and your business on from afar!