The newly formed Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Baton Rouge is calling on local businesses to lend their dollars, expertise and in-kind gifts as the program prepares to kick off in September.
Community business leaders can invest as little as $500 or as much as $20,000 in the program, where a select group of high school students will generate business ideas, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their own companies.
The tax-deductible donations will go toward scholarships for the up to 30 students’ $995 tuition, as well as startup investments for their business ideas.
“Each business idea has a dedicated mentor,” says Sarah Munson, a volunteer on YEA BR’s steering committee. “This is an awesome opportunity for established business people to now take that next step and pay it forward to the next generation using the talents that they have developed themselves in their own careers.”
The program is a local affiliate of a national nonprofit founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester in New York, and was launched by former Starmount Life Insurance President Deborah Sternberg as a way to offer high school students an opportunity to transform their ideas into valuable enterprises.
The organization hopes to raise at least three years’ worth of funding for expenses, she adds, to “know that they have the commitment from the community to make a commitment to the students.”
Munson says organizers hope to secure enough money to send the winner of the academy’s pitch competition to the national competition at the University of Rochester next May.
Companies that can’t write checks to the program can still help, Munson says. Restaurants are encouraged to provide complimentary dinners for participants, who will attend the weekly sessions every Wednesday night from 5 to 8 p.m., and other companies can donate technology, printing services or graphic design work, among other services.
“Workforce development is always the topic on the tip of our tongue,” Munson says. “We try to support young people at the college level … but we’ve got to back it up even further.”
Gifts of time are also welcomed, says Munson, as organizers are looking for area professionals who can shepherd the aspiring entrepreneurs, host field trips of their facilities and speak to the class about their industries.
Munson says about 80 community leaders showed interest last week at a watch party promoting the program. Get more details on how businesses can participate in the program. Interested students should apply before August 31. Learn more about the student application process.