Ten new businesses earned seed money Wednesday night at the investor
pitch session for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national program run
locally by the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The big winner at Wednesday's event was Nicks Sticks, a beef jerky business headed by 13-year-old Forest Middle School eighth-grader Nick Munsey. Munsey earned $1,500 in startup cash from the panel of investors and the chance to compete at the Saunders Scholars competition, the national finals for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, also known as YEA!
Munsey will travel to Rochester, N.Y., in two weeks for the competition, where he'll have the chance to win $25,000 for his business and a full college scholarship.
"As soon as I heard $1,500, I almost passed out," Munsey said after Wednesday's event.
Later, when he found out he was chosen as Lynchburg's representative for the national contest, Munsey said, he felt like he couldn't breathe.
Nicks Sticks wasn't the only winning business at the event. Every business received at least $100 in seed money to get their idea off the ground.
The student entrepreneurs were given six minutes to pitch their ideas to an investor panel composed of local business people and executives. After outlining their idea, who their competitors were, how their pricing structure worked and how much investment they needed, the young business owners fielded three questions each from the panel.
D'Arrin Calloway, a Dunbar Middle School sixth grader who's hoping to sell custom-designed bracelets, said he felt confident from the minute he started his presentation.
"When I started talking, I just stopped being nervous," said Calloway, who received $200 from the panel to launch his business, KD Cre8tions.
Several judges on the investor panel said they were impressed with the students' composure and professionalism.
"Even though they're so young, when they're presenting, you forget how young they are," said Katrina Rice, senior vice president at Bank of the James and one of the night's judges.
YEA! is a national program launched at the University of Rochester in 2004. Students spend about six months meeting with local entrepreneurs, visiting businesses and learning how to build and pitch their own business plans.
Christine Kennedy, executive vice president of the Chamber, was one of the drivers behind bringing the program to Lynchburg -- its first Virginia location.
"It's inspiring," she said Wednesday.
The Chamber already is taking applications for next year's class.
But this year's group of young entrepreneurs isn't done yet. They'll be selling their goods at Lynchburg Regional Chamber's Connection Expo on May 22 at Liberty University.
Another chance to see young entrepreneurs in action
What: Market Day, a partnership between United Way of Central Virginia's Grow One: Start-up for Young Entrepreneurs program and the Center for Economic Education at Lynchburg College. Thirty teams of elementary school business owners will spend the day selling their goods and services.
Where: Lynchburg College Memorial Ballroom
When: Thursday, 10 a.m. Open to the public.
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