HANNIBAL, Mo. — A new group of inspiring entrepreneurs met for the first time Wednesday at Hannibal-LaGrange University to find out what it will take to move their startup ideas from the planning stage to implementation.
About eight high school-age students have signed up for the second year of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce's Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national program in which students brainstorm business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch ideas to investors for startup funds and then launch their companies or social movements. At the end of the 23-week program, graduates will receive a business license to continue managing their businesses.
When Hannibal launched the program last year, it was the first time Young Entrepreneurs Academy had been organized in Missouri.
“We are very excited for this second year. We're building off last year's successful program, and we're already seeing a wide variety of business ideas with this new group of students,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director McKenzie Disselhorst said. “We had and continue to have great support from the business community here in Hannibal, and hopefully this year more people outside of the business community will become engaged in the program, too.”
Students in the 2017-18 program range from eighth-graders to high school seniors.
“My friend was involved in YEA last year, and I heard so many good things about it,” senior Katie Tracy said. “I was interested in learning more, so I joined this year. I recently started a blog, and I hope to learn more about running a business that involves writing.”
Sophomore Garrett Ruby also knew in advance he wanted to join this year.
“My dad is a business owner, so he is kind of my inspiration to wanting to do this program and start my own business,” Ruby explained. “I found out about it last year, and I made sure to get on top of applying this time. I've always enjoyed working outside, and I'm thinking about starting a landscaping business.”
A third student, junior Dakota McCloud, wants to start a business that centers around suicide prevention.
Disselhorst said, “All of these students are coming in so passionate about what they want to do, and we're excited to see them grow throughout the program.
Five students completed the Young Entrepreneurs Academy last year, and most of those are still running or building their businesses today.
“One of our students who focused her business around quality food products raised by FFA youth has really exceeded her expectations, I think,” Disselhorst said. “She's making several food deliveries each week. And another student is cold-calling manufacturing companies to see if they will manufacture her foot orthotic. These are impressive accomplishments by our area youth.”
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy will run through April. Anyone interested in joining the program may call 573-221-1101 or visit hannibalchamber.org/yea.