Young entrepreneurs get leg up in St. John

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2012



LAPLACE – Middle school and high school students in the River Parishes will soon have the opportunity to get more acquainted with what it takes to launch and sustain a real business.

Next month (November) the River Region Chamber of Commerce is launching the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, an innovative program that guides students aged 11 to 18 through the complete business process. Over the course of an academic year, students enrolled in the program will have fully formed a functional business that will have the ability to carry on beyond graduation from the program. The program is free and open to all students in the River Parishes. Applications will be taken until Nov. 5, and the first class is Thursday, Nov. 12.

“All they need to come with is an idea and a drive to see that idea come to fruition,” said program project manager Buddy Boe. “Students will go through all the motions of creating a business. They will have notarized papers confirming their business name, they will visit a bank to apply for a loan, they will pitch to investors, everything a normal entrepreneur does to get their ideas off the ground.”

Boe said the program requires a nine-month commitment from its young executives. The academy will meet every Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at John L. Ory Magnet School in LaPlace. The classes include six field trips where students will go through the steps of forming their business.

“We start with a brainstorm session, where students share ideas and possibly form partnerships,” Boe said. “Then we move to building the business plan. We will hold trade shows to promote the businesses, and we will have an investment panel where students can go after seed money – a small amount of seed money.”

River Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chassity McComack said the Young Entrepreneurs Academy got its start in 2004 by students at the University of Rochester. In 2008, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce grabbed onto the program, where it is pitched to regional chambers. The River Region Chamber of Commerce is the first in the state to take part in the program.

“Our goal is to eventually provide a unique and challenging experience for all students interested in participating,” McComack said. “We hope to have the support of industry leaders, who can serve as mentors and expound some of their knowledge of business on participants.”

Along with business mentors from the region, the program enlists the help of graphic designers, local business owners and government officials, who support the students throughout the program.

“One of the most interesting components of the program is the actual behind the scenes knowledge the students are given from local business leaders, who were at one time standing in their shoes,” said Henry Friloux, River Region Chamber chairman. “The experience is something they will be able to apply to whatever field they choose to enter, thereby giving them the necessary skills to become future leaders of industry.”

Volunteers from local businesses, especially retirees who have a passion for education, are encouraged to serve as mentors. To help, call the chamber at 985-359-9777. Applications can be picked up at the Chamber office, located at 301 W. Airline Highway, Suite 201, LaPlace. Applications are also available for download at www.river