Program Teaches Would-Be Teen Entrepreneurs

By Amy Neff Roth Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kimberly Kim and Lay Say honed their idea for a special backpack at a local "Young Entrepreneurs Academy." At the academy, budding entrepreneurs come up with an idea for a business or a nonprofit, write a formal business plan, make a Power Point presentation and present their idea to an investor panel.

Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

Watching kids navigating through certain, potentially dangerous sections of Utica spurred two high school students to start their own business.

Kimberly Kim, a sophomore, and Lay Say, a freshman, both Thomas R. Proctor High School students, are trying to start a business, SUVIENI, selling school backpacks with embedded GPS and a host of other cool features to makes life easier and safer for students.

"Since we live in a poor area of Utica, we've witnessed the dangers of walking, biking or even driving in the area and we've noted that our friends kept getting into predicaments that they shouldn't have been in," Kim said.

Kim and Say honed their idea at the Mohawk Valley Community College Young Entrepreneurs Academy, also known as YEA!, over the course of the past school year.

Budding entrepreneurs come up with an idea for a business or a nonprofit, write a formal business plan, make a Power Point presentation and present their idea to an investor panel from whom they can win money to fund their ideas.

The 27-week program ran from November through mid-May, meeting for three hours every Wednesday. Students in grades six through 12 from Oneida and Madison counties are eligible.

Three participants in the first class in 2012 have now started businesses, said Susan Lincoln, YEA program manager. "They really can leave here fully entrepreneurs and making money," she said.

Lincoln said she's impressed by their ideas. Last year a teen created a pyramid-shaped prism that fits on an iPhone to turn two-dimensional images into holograms.

"I was blown away with that," she said.

"Usually I'm amazed," Lincoln added, "because it's not where my brain at their age was, creating my own business. They tend to be problem solvers. ... They see a problem and they solve it."

Kim and Say received $777 for their backpacks, which include a panic button that sends a signal requesting urgent help to the nearest police station. The backpack also has a siren button (in case the GPS isn't working indoors) and a built-in power charger.

"We also have a Chapstick holder, which is located on the strap, and other hidden pockets that you can access easily while on the go," Say said.

The money will pay for several prototypes. Kim and Say then plan to turn to Kickstarter for funding to launch their business.

2017 graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy

Here is a list of the students' projects and and how much investment they received:

* Suzette Valcarcel, Tanasia Penn and Franklyn Valcarcel of Utica. Blended FEAST, social movement people-powered smoothie company. $600. (They will compete in the Saunders Scholarship Competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology).

* Tyler Thompson of Utica. TNT Cookie Factor, which makes trip chip homemade cookies. $213 and the MVCC presidential scholarship.

* Daniel LaPlante of Remsen. Modern Archery, which brings technology to bow hunting. $960.

* Kimberly Kim and Lay Say of Utica. SUVIENI, a company to make backpacks with GPS. $777.

* Jorge Hernandez of Utica. Don't Fret, a guitar tutor and rental company. $550.

* Eneliza Retamar of Utica. 4 the Future, a nonprofit to teach teens life skills. $500.

* Zainabo Imani of Utica. Swag Bracelets, a business making beaded bracelets. $300.

* Anjali Malhotra of New Hartford. Cure the Heart Race Company, a road-race company that donates money to local organizations supporting healthy hearts and heart care. $200.

* Rose Barris of Oneida. Hang Loose Malasadas, a business selling Hawaiian malasadas (fried dough pastries) and donating a portion of its profits to help the homeless in Hawaii. $200.

* Saba Haji of BOCES' PTECH program. Planner Epic, selling planners suited to the needs of teen students. $200.

* Julia Mazzotta of Utica. Sugar Lips, a company selling homemade lip scrubs and bath products. $200.

* Emil Obic of Utica. Envy Graphic, a graphic design company with a "hip perspective." $200.

* Michael Martinez of BOCES' PTECH program. Epic Drawings, a drawing service focused on superheroes to be hired for parties and events. $100.

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