ANDERSON — Nathan Smith, 15, enjoys a good peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich – especially one made without crushed bread.
“It’s hard to make a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich once the bread gets squished,” Smith said. “I prefer it to be nicely square.”
The problem is, bread can easily get smashed during transportation from the store to the kitchen, he noted. That’s why he decided to create a solution, a protective box, to this common hazard – one that will hopefully make him a future CEO.
Smith is one of 14 students in Madison County’s first Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), a 30-week class for middle and high school students.
Students in the academy are learning how to develop ideas into written business plans, conduct market research and sell their business ideas to a panel of investors at the February 2014 Investor Panel before launching their new business.
To be accepted into the program, students were required to write essays, provide letters of recommendations and face tight deadlines, said Corey Sharp, co-chair of YEA and the director of Purdue University’s College of Technology at Anderson.
“Some of them just wanted to have fun – you need to do it for more than just having fun,” he said. “It is not a light commitment.”
Angela Barbosa, Madison County Chamber executive vice president and co-chair of YEA, said students are brainstorming for company names and have begun researching their competition. YEA, she said, is an excellent tool to teach students about business, but also a great way to build confident leaders with values.
Smith is already showing that confidence.
“I know it’s going to happen,” he said of his invention. “I’m very excited.”
John Smith, Nathan Smith’s father, said the program has helped his son become more focused and better organized.
“From a business standpoint, I love seeing Nathan feel the pressure of a real-world situation,” John Smith said. “He has to meet deadlines, get his homework done. And I’ve watched him panic a little.”
The opportunity to meet business leaders and work with students who are also interested in becoming business owners has been a wonderful experience for his son, John Smith said.
In May, YEA students will showcase their businesses at a trade show and complete the program with a formal graduation. By then, Nathan Smith will have applied for patents for his invention to prevent smashed produce.
That means no more crushed bread, which would be meaningful to a lot of kids. According to the National Peanut Board, on average, a child will eat 1,500 peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school.
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More about the academy YEA was formed in 2004 with support from the Kauffman Foundation. In 2008, it spun off as a not-for-profit corporation, launching local programs in colleges, universities and high schools around the country. Information about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Madison County: Angela Barbosa, Madison County Chamber executive vice president, 642-0264, email@example.com. -- Traci Moyer