Regions Northern Virginia

Arlington launches academy for young entrepreneurs

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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A financial website, NerdWallet, has named Arlington the No. 1 spot in the U.S. for young entrepreneurs.

Now the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is giving budding entrepreneurs a head start, helping them begin businesses while they are still in their teens.

The chamber has launched an Arlington version of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), an after-school program that aims to teach 11- to 18-year-old students the ropes of creating and running a business.

In a yearlong class, students will develop and write business plans, conduct market research, pitch ideas to investors and launch their companies. (If a student is under 18, a competent adult must co-sign their legal, business documents, the chamber says.) 

The Arlington Chamber was asked by the national YEA! organization to start a local program. YEA! projects have has been implemented by a variety of organizations across the U.S., including the Lynchburg, Virginia Peninsula and Danville Pittsylvania chambers of commerce. YEA! also is starting in Alexandria and Pulaski County this fall.

“We are approached all the time by different groups who want us to partner or form one of their programs, and we just don’t have the time and resources to be able to do the majority of them, but for me, this one just really jumped out as an amazing opportunity for us,” Roche says.

According to its website, the YEA! was founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation. Today, the program is a partner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, among others. To participate in the program, the Arlington Chamber pays an affiliate fee, and students pay $395 each to enroll in the class.

Roche says hosting the program provides additional relevance for the chamber and may help it attract businesses that may not otherwise join.

“I think we’ve all seen that … gone are the days for people to join a chamber of commerce just because that’s what you do when you open a business,” she says, noting that members now want to see exciting programs and opportunities to get involved.

Arlington businesses can participate in the program in a number of ways, including serving as partners or sponsors, providing business mentors, helping as investor panelists or participating in a CEO roundtable, where up to five local executives offer advice to students.

YEA! graduates have an impressive academic record.  According to the Arlington Chamber, all its participants have graduated from high school on time, 99 percent have gone on to higher education and 19 percent became entrepreneurs.

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