On Tuesday, our Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) class had the opportunity to hear and receive guidance from some of our local business leaders at the 11th Annual CEO Roundtable, held at the Eureka McConnell Science Museum. YEA! turns students as young as 11 into the CEOs of their very own businesses, developing the skills necessary to be successful members of the future workforce.

Thanks to our local business leaders who volunteered to share their experiences and insights, the 2023-2024 Young Entrepreneurs Academy class is well underway to becoming CEOs of their own! Shane Hass of FCI Constructors Inc. and Melinda McCaw from Melinda McCaw Media sat down with the class and shared their experiences of what it is like to be the CEO of their companies and the challenges they face. This guidance will support these young students as they prepare to launch their own businesses and become CEOs and leaders themselves in just a few short months.

The 80 plus student-run businesses that have been established through the YEA! program to date have made a significant impact on the Grand Valley. By fostering an entrepreneurial environment for young minds, the program also reflects on our community’s willingness to support pathways to entrepreneurship and business growth.

In fact, according to a poll completed by Gallup Student, many youth have entrepreneurial aspirations and energy that could help drive future job creation in the country. Nearly 8 in 10 students (77%) in grades 5 through 12 say they want to be their own boss, 45% say they plan to start their own business, and 42% say they will invent something that changes the world.

Now that they have heard from some of our local business leaders, the students will continue preparing their presentations and pitches for the 11th Annual Investor Panel scheduled for March 12th. This event allows the class to practice their public speaking skills, learn how to sell their idea and business, and persuade local business leaders to invest in their business – “Shark Tank” style. Based on the appeal and merit of the students’ plans and presentations, a panel of investors will determine the amount of real funds to allocate to each business. We hope to see a full crowd to show support for our hard-working young entrepreneurs!

As we take part in celebrating National Entrepreneurship Week this February 10th through 17th, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is reminded of the undeniable role that entrepreneurs play in promoting business and economic growth, from the dedicated dreamers and visionaries, inventors and innovators, to our very own YEA! students here in Mesa County.

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