Small business program turns its students into start-up stars

A group of local students will be spending the summer launching their new small businesses.

Pat Loeb
May 26, 2018 - 10:00 pm
Star up Kids

Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Many teenagers are looking forward to extra free time as summer vacation approaches, but one group of local students will be spending the summer launching their new small businesses. They're recent graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

Jaden Young learned to bake with his grandmother. 

Niya Shah loves board games. 

Carol Baird took a life-changing trip to Africa. 

Though all young teens, they've turned their passions into businesses.

"I decided, let me try and sell these things and see how it works out," says Young, 16, of the cakes and cookies he turned out of his West Oak Lane kitchen. 

Jaden Young
Jaden Young / Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

He and about a dozen other students got guidance in writing a business plan, pitching to investors, legally registering their businesses and more at the five-year-old Academy (YEA), the local program of a national organization that encourages middle- and high-schoolers in, according to the website "fulfilling their own American dream."

Shah began making board games just for the fun of it. 

Niya Shah
Niya Shah / Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

"I really like strategy board games so I came up with an insurance-type game. I wrote stuff on pieces of paper, cut them out and played with my family," he says. Players were subject to calamities but could buy protection, balancing the price of insuring against a particular disaster with the odds of it occurring.

When he joined YEA, he decided to add features that would help players learn about disaster preparedness to help the game find a market.

"There are so many board games out there and there was no hook," he says, "so I added that educational component."

Kyasia Bess was already making handbags, by hand, out of leather she bought from a company in Springfield. With YEA's help, she's now having them manufactured in China.

Kyasia Bess
Kyasia Bess / Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

"I never real thought about manufacturing until I thought about quantity, coming to the class. They brought it to mind," she said, adding she'd like to move the manufacturing to the U.S. if there's enough demand.

Carol Baird also uses a Chinese manufacturer for book bags based on designs she creates, inspired by a school trip to Kenya when she was at Global Leadership Academy.

Carol Baird
Carol Baird / Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

"We went an orphanage," she says. "A lot of them didn't have their own books and the books they did have were either torn or they had to share and they didn't have book bags, they had to carry them. So when I came back, I saw the difference in how we take things like that for granted so I wanted to make a difference."

Baird Bookbag
Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

Part of her business plan is that, for every book bag sold, one would be donated to Saving Grace Orphanage in West Philadelphia.

This year's class, which graduated on May 22nd, even included the organization's National Award -- two Devon Prep students reviving the pocket square. 

YEA is now recruiting next year's class. There's an informational session at Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr on May 30 at 7 p.m.