2023 YEA! Investor Panel

For the past ten years, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has been proud to offer the Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA!). This important program turns students as young as 11 into the CEOs of their very own businesses, helping to develop the skills necessary to be successful members of our future workforce and economy.

Throughout the program, students are encouraged to think critically, come up with creative solutions to problems, and build skills that are essential for entrepreneurs and for success in the workplace. This week, our 2023 class which included 8 new CEOs and businesses created through the YEA! program had the opportunity to “pitch” their business idea and financial plans to a panel of investors at the Annual YEA! Investors Panel hosted at the Courtyard by Marriott. Based on the appeal and merit of the student’s plans and presentations, this panel of investors was able to distribute startup funds amongst the businesses.

This Investor Panel follows nearly five months of weekly classes focused on plans, market analysis, creating a product/service, what a franchise is and how it runs, how to create and use an elevator pitch, and much more. These classes also include a mix of curriculum that features guest presenters who share real-world applications and information, business field trips, and networking opportunities with local business leaders.

Led by the Grand Junction Chamber’s Workforce Development Coordinator, Kirstin Maska, this program features three volunteer instructors and volunteer student mentors who are each assigned one student.

In addition to securing start-up funds at the recent Investor Panel, one business was selected to represent Grand Junction at the national level as the 2023 Saunders Scholar. After deliberation, the investors selected Alivia Nicodemus, CEO of Home-Town Macramé, as the 2023 Saunders Scholar. Alivia competes in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Semi-Final Virtual Competition, scheduled for later this fall, for the chance to win up to $30,000 in college scholarships and up to $5,000 in cash awards. Alivia was 5 years old, she started making bracelets that used macramé knots and when she was 10, she completed her first macramé piece. Last year at the age of 11, she won 1st place at the county fair for her 4-H macramé project. She then went to state for her macramé piece and she won 6th place against multiple fiber art entries. She decided to start Home-Town Macramé because she loves doing macramé, and she wanted to make money so that she can donate to mental health charities.

The next stop for this class of bright and talented new CEOs will be the annual YEA! Tradeshow held at Mesa Mall on Saturday, May 6th from 10 AM – 12 PM. Many of the students will have products and services available for purchase and we strongly encourage our community to get out and support the newest small businesses in the Valley!

Want to know more about our YEA! program? Contact us at kirstin@gjchamber.org.


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