By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
They develop revolutionary products and conduct international business deals — so long as they finish their homework, first.
Mini moguls in grades six through 12 will converge on Madison County this year for Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a crash course in product development, strategy and marketing that culminates in an actual, student-run business.
YEA began in 2004 at the University of Rochester, then in 2008, spun-off as its own not-for-profit corporation, launching local programs in colleges, universities and high schools around the country.
This year is its first in Madison County, a partnership between the Madison County Chamber, Purdue University College of Technology-Anderson and local business leaders, who will work one-on-one with the students to develop their business plans, pitch to a team of investors and present the finished product in a trade show.
“Some of the projects that have come out of this are pretty incredible,” said Corey Sharp, director of Purdue’s local extension. “They’re real, functioning businesses.”
And they’re run by kids as young as 11. For example, take Ani Patel, who was a seventh grader when he enrolled in YEA and founded Intel4India, a company that provides telecommute English lessons for kids in rural India. In 2009, his sophomore year in high school, Ani’s company had over 500 students enrolled.
Others have developed products that make it easier to hang holiday lights, jewelry that time-releases perfume and multimedia campaigns to combat texting and driving.
That’s a learning experience you just can’t get in the classroom.
“One of the most interesting components of the program is the actual behind-the-scenes knowledge the students are given from local business leaders, who were at one time standing in their shoes,” said Sandra Hudson, Assistant Superintendent of South Madison Community Schools. She and other local school representatives attended a meeting this month to help launch the program.
“The experience is something they will be able to apply to whatever field they choose to enter,” she said, “Giving them the necessary skills to become future leaders of industry.”
And hopefully they’ll keep those businesses right here in Madison County, boosting the local economy.
Given the results of similar programs across the county, YEA has the “potential to make a dramatic impact on our community, in both business and education,” said Chamber chairman Jack Harter, “Then, we as a community get to benefit from all the enterprises these students are creating. It sets our community up for a thriving future for years to come, and provides the training our next generation of CEOs need to steer our county towards innovation and prosperity.”
But it will take the entire community, working in partnership, to help that happen, said Chamber executive vice president Angela Barbosa — from educators, to volunteers to local business leaders.
As for the tiny titans of industry, they’ll need to be dedicated, motivated and effective time managers, since the program is after school from September to May.
“It’s really about recruiting the right students,” Barbosa said, “Energetic, talented, driven kids who understand what an awesome opportunity this is to learn business from the ground up from business people and are ready to commit to a year-long process to do it.”
Applications and nominations can be downloaded on the Chamber’s website. Class size is limited to 24, so early application is recommended.
Classes begin this September and run through May 2014, Wednesday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Purdue Anderson campus in the Flagship Enterprise Center, 2705 Enterprise Drive. Tuition is $295 per student, but scholarships are available.
Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.