Creating a Career By Starting A Business

Guest Correspondence


At the recent county-wide State of Jobs Conference, 30 percent of high school students polled said they’d like to start their own business and, in effect, work for themselves. A program new to our community will help prepare them to do just that.

From a business perspective, success can sometimes be painfully simple: identify your most important asset and invest in it in a way that produces a unique and valuable outcome for everyone involved. From a community perspective, there is perhaps no greater asset than the next generation. With that understanding, Leadership Sarasota, a program of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, has partnered with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) to bring the Academy’s decade-long success to the Sarasota Area.

The YEA! program is a groundbreaking and exciting year-long educational, immersive experience that transforms middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Throughout the process, participants are tasked with the creation of a business from inception to fully operable. Sarasota students will get actual experience in developing business ideas, writing business plans, conducting market research, pitching plans to panels of investors and literally launching and running their own real, legal, fully-formed companies and social movements. From registering DBAs to filing tax returns, YEA! students literally do everything an adult would who is starting their own business.

YEA! began with a single class at the University of Rochester in 2004 and is now equipping fledgling entrepreneurs in 89 locations across 30 states. Sarasota marks only the 9th Florida-based YEA! partnership and the Chamber program will add Sarasota’s locally-grown, talented youth to nearly 1,400 students that have graduated from the program and launched over 1,000 enterprises. Through helping students embrace their entrepreneurial passion, energy, creativity and talents, the Chamber and YEA! strive to equip greater Sarasota’s youth to become job seekers as well as job creators.

As students in the program meet weekly for three hours at the State College of Florida over 30 weeks, YEA! injects an innovative applied academic approach to bolster the already strong foundation being created in the Sarasota school system. YEA! participants learn as much about self-esteem, personal potential and leadership skills as they do about budgeting, planning and production.  However, the real key to success is when the program unlocks a student’s potential by having them work directly with business leaders in the community in a way that turns theory into application, a test into a transaction.

A Texas YEA! graduate recently auditioned for ABC’s hit show Shark Tank, another was featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, and yet another has completed a nearly $1 million round of investments for use in a manufacturing and distribution system in his most recent business.  Of course, the mission isn’t about television exposure, venture capital or the next big thing.  The Sarasota YEA! mission is clear: help students view entrepreneurship and social innovation as synonymous with success and freedom.

It is the desire of many to see the generation that follows both do better and feel safer than they themselves were able.  By investing in middle and high school students in a new way that harnesses talents and creates a valuable outcome for the school system, parents, business and most importantly the students, Sarasota’s future success might just be as simple as YEA! 

For more information about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, interested students and parents can contact Barb Hines at

SRQ Daily Columnist Kevin Cooper is the vice president for Public Policy and Sarasota Tomorrow Initiatives for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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