WAUSAU – On March 21, 2017, a group of 13 young entrepreneurs received a total of $5,250 at an Investor Panel event held at the Westwood Conference Center. These investments will help the students launch the businesses they have developed during this school year in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program.
YEA! was brought to the region in 2015 through a partnership between the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce and the DC Everest Area School District.
Since September 2016, this group of students has been working hard to create a dozen new businesses – real businesses they plan to continue running after graduation to help them achieve goals like funding college and becoming life-long entrepreneurs.
During the Investor Panel event, the YEA! students pitched their business plans to a panel of financial donors in front of a live public audience. Their plans had been developed over the last six months with guidance from numerous business leaders throughout the region. The students intend to formally launch their businesses to the public later this year; the money received from the panel is intended to assist them with meeting this goal. Representatives from local businesses made up a panel which determined the amount of funds to allocate to each student based upon the appeal and viability of their plans and presentations.
Malia Oluszcyk, a senior at the DC Everest Idea School, secured the largest investment of $1,250 at the Investor Panel to grow her produce company, Breezy Greens. Along with receiving the largest investment, she was also selected as a semifinalist for the National Saunders Scholars competition. In May, Oluszcyk will travel to Rochester, New York to compete against other YEA! student businesses from around the country for hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, a fast-track application pass to apply to be on ABC’s Shark Tank and an all-expenses paid trip to attend America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, DC courtesy of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Oluszcyk was joined at the event by classmates John Belton, Simon Bocoun, Payton Buchkowski, Aaliyah Edson, Danica Groth, Shea Johnson, Roman Maguire, Omolola Onitilo, Dylan Rainville, Samantha Reede, Noah Schwartz and John Zywicki. Videos of each of their presentations can be viewed on the Chamber’s YouTube channel.
The investor panel was made up of Kristin Meliska and David Mayer of Greenheck, Jeny Nieuwenhuis Hardel of REI Engineering Inc, Erik Rajek of Byline Bank – Small Business Capital, John Schult of Cellcom, Shirley Wang of Marathon Ginseng International and Jim Warsaw of MCDEVCO Inc.
Next month, all 13 students will host professional booths at the Business EXPO at the Central Wisconsin Convention + Expo Center on Thursday, April 21 as part of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Week. This event will serve as the official launch of their business ideas into the local business community. Attendees are encouraged to stop by each booth to learn more and support these entrepreneurs.
The Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce partnered with the DC Everest Area School District in 2015 to offer the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) to students in the region. The inaugural class of 2015-16 created 11 businesses last year and their presentations at an Investor Panel event are also available on the Chamber’s YouTube channel. DC Everest and the Chamber have committed to running this program through the 2017-2018 school year, but its long-term success lies largely with our local business community, whose engagement is critical.
If you are interested in becoming a YEA! sponsor or would like to learn more about how to support the next generation of entrepreneurs, call 715-845-6231. Details on the program, including additional volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, can be viewed online at wausauchamber.com.