BY: MEGAN WRIGHT

To complete the 2017 program, students from the Knoxville Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) met with local CEOs for a roundtable discussion on March 28. YEA! is a 30-week extra-curricular program for middle and high schoolers that teaches them how to take a business idea from concept to creation.

Jim Rooney of 3-Minute Magic Carwash, Mel Evans of Insurefit RM, and Courtney Jernigan of Knoxville Graphic House participated in the roundtable. They provided the students with personal stories, advice about starting businesses, and fundamentals of entrepreneurship.

The second cohort of the Knoxville Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) concluded with a graduation celebration on April 18.

Over the course of the 30-week program, 20 students created 17 unique businesses or social movements. Students, aged 12-18, went through the entire business process, including brainstorming business ideas, developing a concrete business plan, pitching their ideas to a panel of local investors, and launching their own businesses.

Beginning last October, the students met every Tuesday evening for three hours at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee. They received lessons from the program’s instructor, Haseeb Qureshi, and heard from a number of guest lecturers, successful entrepreneurs, and business mentors.

The young entrepreneurs were also exposed to a number of local businesses and facilities through field trips to locations like the Local Motors Microfactory and Rala’s new retail location on Jackson Ave.

Courtney Jones, founder and president of MomSource Network, served as this year’s commencement speaker, offering students advice and encouragement as they embark on an entrepreneurial future.

“First, I just want take a minute to recognize this moment in your lives,” Jones said. “You’ve already done something that very few people will have an opportunity to do, so I just want to congratulate, initially, on your graduation.”

This was YEA!’s second year in the Knoxville community, supported by Pilot Flying J, UT’s Haslam College of Business, Clayton Bank, and the Arconic Foundation.

The Chamber is currently seeking applications from students in grades 6-12 to fill the 2017-2018 class. These students should be responsible and creative with the ability to communicate well and demonstrate a passion for entrepreneurship. Students do not need to have a business idea to apply for the program.

Classes will meet October through April, from 5 – 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

To apply for YEA!, students must fill out the application form, complete the essay and short answer questions, and submit their most recent transcript. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a community leader, teacher, or guidance counselor.

After this process, the student will be invited for a personal interview with a YEA! Student Selection Committee member.

In order to be accepted for Early Admittance to the program, students must submit their applications by May 19. Students processed for Early Admittance will be notified of their status by June 24, and if any of the 24 spots remain after that date, students will be processed on a rolling basis until the program is at capacity.

To apply, nominate a student, or learn more about the program, visit knoxvillechamber.com/YEA or visit the YEA! Knoxville Chamber Facebook page.