New Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber academy will cater to young entrepreneurs

by Jamie Smith ([email protected]) 181 views 

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) will soon have its first location in Arkansas as the Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce will offer its first YEA class this fall.

The Chamber will host two informational meetings about the program with the first being Aug. 8 and the second Sept. 12. The meetings will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Walmart World Room, which is upstairs from the Walmart Museum on the Bentonville Square.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy today works with thousands of students in nearly 170 communities in 38 states. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,250 businesses have been launched, according to the national YEA! website.

The YEA teaches students in grades 6-12 (ages 11-18) how to develop a viable business idea and to make that business become a reality. The work with instructors and mentors to: develop a business plan, interact with business professionals from many Northwest Arkansas industries through guest speaking sessions and field trips, pitch their business plan to real local investors, and launch their business or social movement. A winner from the Bentonville-Bella Vista YEA program will be able to take their idea to compete at the regional and possibly national level.

“If this had been offered when I was a kid, I would have jumped all over it,” said Dawn Stewart, vice president of business retention and program development for the Chamber.

Students must apply for the program and once accepted, they will attend classes for 32 weeks beginning Oct. 17. YEA classes will be 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday (except school holidays) in the Walmart World Room. held at the Walmart World Room.

Students aren’t required to have a business idea in mind when they apply. In fact, the first couple weeks of the program is spent brainstorming ideas. Students will have the ability to choose to operate their own business or to form groups to develop a joint business idea. This program provides an excellent alternative for students for whom attending college right out of school may not be a good fit.

“They will be students today and CEOs tomorrow,” Stewart said of those selected.

The students will have three instructors who will each offer a 10-week curriculum. They will also take field trips and have the chance to hear from a panel of CEOs and several other guest speakers throughout the 32-week course. Each business will have a mentor who will help them develop a sales pitch and marketing plan to present before an investor panel towards the end of the class.

“I love that we’re giving another option for youth for what they want to do with their life,” Stewart said.

Eric Howerton, CEO of Fayetteville-based WhyteSpyder, plans to be involved in several ways, including as an instructor. WhyteSpyder is a marketing agency.

“I would have loved to have discovered my passion long before,” Howerton said, adding that it’s important for this region to demonstrate a more “progressive business-minded” approach.

“In reality, school teaches how to learn not how to do,” he said.