The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to offer the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) to Mesa County, turning students as young as 11 into the CEOs of their very own businesses and developing future business leaders of our community.

Throughout the program, students gain valuable, hands-on experiences from a diverse set of activities and curriculum, including mentors, networking, guest lectures, investor pitches and field trips. At each step, students are encouraged to think critically, become more confident in their ideas and develop skills to become successful.

Since bringing the program to Mesa County twelve years ago, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy has graduated students who have started over 80 businesses and social movements, undoubtedly making significant contributions to the local economy and business community.

Last week, our 2023/2024 YEA! class had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and financial plans to a panel of local business leaders and investors at the annual Investor Panel, held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Grand Junction. This “Shark Tank” style event offers students the possibility to receive real investments in their businesses. Beginning with a networking segment, students have an opportunity to get to know the investors serving on the panel before delivering presentations about their business ideas, including market research and proposed start-up costs for their ventures. This event follows nearly five months of weekly classes covering a comprehensive list of entrepreneurial topics, including business plans, market analysis, product/service development, elevator pitches and financing.

This year, the investor panelists were highly impressed with our YEA! students, deciding to fund the start-up costs for each of the three budding businesses that were presented.

In addition to securing key investments, the Investor Panel also selects one business to represent Mesa County at the national level each year as our Saunders Scholar. After deliberation, panelists selected Rusty Junge, CEO of Rusty Metal. Throughout high school, Rusty has been involved in FFA, the 4-H program, student council, track, robotics and football. His lifelong goal is to pursue general automotive studies this upcoming fall so that one day he is able to open his very own restoration shop.

In May, Rusty will have the opportunity to compete in Rochester, New York at the Saunders Scholar Semi-Final Competition, where he will have the chance to win up to $30,000 in college scholarships and up to $5,000 in cash awards.

A significant step in our students’ journeys, the Investor Panel was made possible by an amazing foundation of local supporters. A special thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, City of Grand Junction, as well as each of our investor panelists, instructors, business mentors, guest speakers and program sponsors who have contributed to the success
of the 2023/2024 YEA! class.

The next step for our YEA! students is the annual Tradeshow, where our young CEOs will have their products and services on display and available for purchase. Come by and show support for our newest small businesses in the Valley!

YEA! Annual Tradeshow:
Saturday, April 27th | 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm at the Mesa Mall Clock Tower

For more information about the Grand Junction Young Entrepreneurs Academy, click here or contact David Proctor at or (970) 263-2916.

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