Twenty-six students representing 15 Capital Region schools are working on plans for new businesses in the inaugural Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Baton Rouge.
About 40 students applied for the program, which is a local affiliate of a national nonprofit in which a select group of high school students generate business ideas, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their own companies.
The program is designed to engage the business community with talented youth and has been in the works since early May. The class first met last Wednesday, and students will develop their business ideas over the next 10 weeks.
Deborah Sternberg brought the program to Baton Rouge in May, four months after stepping down as president of Starmount Life Insurance. She says the academy is already forging a pipeline for LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business, where the weekly sessions take place.
“There’s no question—these are enthusiastic high school students who will be able to see the amazing facility LSU has,” Sternberg says, “and LSU has the opportunity to court them.”
While the program has already garnered more than 70 business sponsors, Sternberg says there are still ways local businesses can help. For example, students will need volunteer graphic designers to help them create logos, business cards and a website to establish their brands, as well as mentors to assist with fleshing out business plans.
Participants also connect with Baton Rouge area entrepreneurs, such as Crawfish App developers Ryan and Laney King, who spoke to the class last week.
Based on last week’s response, Sternberg doesn’t believe the program is a “one-time deal,” anticipating a larger class for next year.
“It will spread through word of mouth, and we’ll have even more enthusiasm for future classes,” she says. “We’re still meeting with people every week to explain what we’re doing. The application process is open all year.”