The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is now offering a program for middle and high school students to teach them how to become entrepreneurs.
The chamber has partnered with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national initiative started 10 years ago that has spread to 30 states and 168 communities across the country. The Arlington YEA joins the Charles County YEA as the only two in the D.C. metro region. It is the fourth in Virginia, along with Danville, Lynchburg and the Hampton/Newport News area.
“I just thought it was really a standout opportunity and really fit a lot of needs for the Arlington community,” said Kate Roche, president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “There’s been a lot of energy around start-ups in the whole metro D.C. area, but really around Arlington. It was important for me to be able to find a niche for the Arlington Chamber, but being careful not to step on toes or duplicate others efforts.”
Several organizations in the Arlington area already encourage entrepreneurship. The Ballston Business Improvement District has LaunchPad. Crystal City has TechShop. Arlington Economic Development has Tandem NSI. But those programs target adults. Roche is hoping to tap into them, recruiting mentors and teachers for the students.
“This was a nice way for us to partner with these organizations and supplement their efforts without duplicating something that was already in effect,” Roche said.
YEA is a five-month, one-day-a-week class for ages 11 to 18 that meets after school and trains students on the process of starting and running a business. The students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research and pitch their plans to a panel of investors before starting and running their businesses. The classes will be held at Marymount University, whose dean of its business school, Jim Ryerson, is on the chamber’s board of directors. The students will be taught by members of the business community.
“One of the things that attracted me to the program is that there are a lot of opportunities for hands-on volunteering,” Roche said. “Members of the chamber can directly impact these future entrepreneurs.”
Up to 24 students will be selected through an application process and interviews. Students can also be nominated. Application and nomination forms are available on the chamber’s Web site. Applications are accepted until Nov. 30. Any student in the Washington region can apply, not just those in Arlington.
“I really think this helps keep the chamber relevant and helps us keep up with the evolving needs of the business community in Arlington and the entire region,” Roche said.
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