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 email@example.com