YEA Empowers Youngest of Moguls



Like many first-time entrepreneurs, Fay Baldwin feels confident in her idea for a company, but wants her finances in order before moving forward with the plan. To date, she has found business partners and connected with mentors to help her develop a business plan and understand regulations. “I want to learn all the things that happen in the background,” she said, “about the finances and about taxes, about what goes into forming your own business, and how to register your own business.” There’s still plenty left to do, but she’s not in a bad place considering she is only 16 years old.

Baldwin is one of the grade school students enrolled in The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The inaugural class of 21 middle and high school students has been attending classes since October, and by the time the program concludes in the spring, the hope is many of these would-be moguls will have incorporated companies and gone into business. Barbara Hines, coordinator for the YEA program, says the academy brings a successful idea tried in markets throughout the country in hopes of empowering young people who feel destined for the title of founder. It’s a program that has been tried successfully at chambers throughout the country.  Launched by the Kauffman Foundation at the University of Rochester in 2004, the curriculum has been exported and replicated, with the United States Chamber of Commerce coming on as a sponsor partner in 2011. 

Most importantly, it gives a set of enthusiastic students the chance to explore business ownership with a solid support system at a time when the world has yet to dash many of their hopes and dreams, and to do it while surrounded by colleagues with equal ambition. Sarasota Military Academy freshman Zachary Perron exhibits authority and bravery as he talks about the work already done. “I do feel confident,” he said. “I have a partner I am working with right now, and we’re doing the best we can with what we have considering we’re only kids. But the whole group is really bright. I'm lucky to have them around me.”

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