The students of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce program, were awarded startup funding to launch their businesses after pitching to a panel of local investors who awarded startup funds based on the merit of the idea and their potential for success. The event took place in the Pound Hall Auditorium located on Valdosta State University’s North Campus on Tuesday, Mar. 19.
The first place winner of the pitch competition was Caleb Hunter, Home School 8th grader. Hunter won for pitching Estate Xposures, which provides framed aerial pictures of small business real estate using drone technology. Hunter presented during his pitch that he already has a customer and used an actual photo purchased to show the investor panel.
Jud Moritz, Regional President, Southwest Georgia Bank, and YEA Superstar Sponsor, kicked off the event with Valdosta-Chamber of Commerce VP of Business Development, Betty Morgan, who shared an overview of the program and acknowledged all program sponsors, mentors, guest speakers, field trip hosts, and service professionals that make the program successful.
YEA! Program Director, DeWayne Johnson presented the event rules for the students and judges prior to introducing the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Estel Powell, “The Voice of Valdosta State”.
After each student presented his/her business presentation and ask amount for funding, the judges went into deliberation in order to decide the investment amounts awarded and the event winners. Arthur Morin of BrandSouth served as the facilitator for the judges.
As the judges came to their decisions in a separate area, the program continued with Powell interviewing the 2018 Pitch Event Winner, Cedric Montgomery, who is now a senior at Lowndes High School. Montgomery admitted, “this year’s group of students blew us out of the water,” when Powell asked him about his opinion of the 2019 YEA pitch presenters.
Johnson announced that the program is now officially accepting early applications through May 31, 2019, for its limited class seats for students. According to Johnson, the young entrepreneurs program welcomes applicants from local counties such as Brooks, Lanier, and Colquitt.
Once the judges returned, Johnson presented the investment award amounts for the YEA! students and their businesses in the order of their presentations:
Amanda Johnson, YEA Lead Instructor and manager, announced the judge’s selections of pitch winners. As the event’s First Place Winner, Caleb Hunter, the 13-year-old CEO of Estate Xposures, will advance to the YEA! Saunders Scholars national competition to compete “Shark Tank” style for up to $30,000 in college scholarships and a variety of business prize packages.
The competition’s First Runner Up was Emma Micklon, 7th grader at Pine Grove Elementary. Micklon won for pitching Comfy Dogg, a foam filled pad that you put on your lap which helps with the clawing, pet fur, weight, and heat that a dog produces, especially during a car ride. Micklon was also the event’s highest investment award recipient, receiving $1,000.
Second Runner Up went to Laila McWhite, 7th grader at Pine Grove Elementary. McWhite won for pitching Kingdom Quotes, which prints words of inspiration, motivational sayings, and expressions to uplift women on a variety of stationery posts and greeting cards.
“This is the most exciting part of the program,” said DeWayne Johnson. “The students, parents, sponsors, and supporting educators have the opportunity to see the transformation and growth that every student has achieved after participating in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.”
“We have also been contacted by individuals who either want to invest additional in-kind support for chosen YEA business ideas, share helpful business connections with the students, or purchase products from the YEA! students in the near future.”
At the YEA! Saunders Scholars national competition, Hunter will have the opportunity to present and network with renowned business leaders and connect with like-minded YEA! students from all over the country. The 11th Annual YEA! Saunders Scholars National Competition and Conference will host the brightest YEA! students ages 11 to 18 from across the United States. The students will have just three minutes to present their business plans to a public audience and a panel of executive judges.
The annual event hosted at nationally-renowned Saunders College of Business at RIT with support of the Saunders Foundation is set to take place on Friday, May 3, 2019 in Rochester, New York. Friends, families and communities across the country will be able to tune-in to the riveting experience via a livestream of the Semi-Finals and Finals at saunders.rit.edu/yea-live<http://saunders.rit.edu/yea-live>.
Local companies, Event Point and Motion Wave Productions, provided event production and videography services, respectively, for the pitch competition.
YEA! is a 20-week, after-school program made possible by the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, helping to build the next generation of business leaders. Early applicants are currently being accepted through May 31, 2019, for the limited student spots avail-able for Fall 2019. For information about how to register area middle school and high school students in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, contact Program Director, DeWayne Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (229) 588-0866.
Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce VP of Business Development, Betty Morgan, YEA! Lead Instructor, Amanda Johnson, (second from the left), and YEA! Program Director, DeWayne Johnson (on the far right) stand in support of the 11 YEA! students that presented during the 2019 YEA! Investor Panel Pitch Event. The students range from 11 to 18 years old and represent public, private, and home schools.