Young Entrepreneurs Academy Students Secure Investments, Graduate from Program

Students in the Knoxville Chamber’s third Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) took part in an investor panel on March 27, in which they pitched their business concepts to a panel of three local investors.

The investor panel was made up of Chad O’Connor, senior manager of customer sales support and operations at Pilot Flying J; Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business; and Kelsey Paris, human resources business advisor for Arconic.

Beginning October 2017, the middle and high-school students worked to build eight unique businesses from the ground up during the course of the 30-week program. Each business had three minutes to pitch their ideas to the panel, who later deliberated and allocated the combined pool of $4,500 to the businesses of their choice. The students will now be able to use these business investments for various start-up costs.

Hannah Rodriguez, a senior at Clayton Bradley Academy, was selected by the panel to move on to the Saunders Scholars Competition in Rochester, N.Y. Her business, Hannah Ashton Content, provides a personal online mentoring course that trains YouTubers, influencers or anyone wanting to grow on social media.

Hannah Rodriguez (center) with YEA! Instructor Haseeb Qureshi (right) and Mark Field, senior vice president of chamber development, for the Knoxville Chamber (left).

The third cohort of YEA! students graduated from the program on April 17 during a ceremony held at the Knoxville Chamber. YEA! instructor Haseeb Qureshi served as commencement speaker. He and Program Manager Megan Wright presented each student with a certificate of completion for the program.

YEA! was supported by Pilot Flying J, UT’s Haslam College of Business, FirstBank and the Arconic Foundation.


Clover Clothing Co. – $300

Elastasock – $800

Hannah Ashton Content – $500

InvestRight Media – $1,250

Luck Lawncare – $250

Mikaira’s Reality – $200

Teaching with Classic Movies – $400

TN Martial Art Events – $800