A-K Valley teens build businesses, earn cash via chamber program
Teens with a flair for entrepreneurship have a free program available to them.
The Young Entrepreneur Program, sponsored by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce, is accepting registrations until Sunday from high school juniors and seniors seeking to be their own boss.
The first class is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the IUP at Northpointe campus in South Buffalo.
In existence for more than a decade, the program provides valuable real-world experience for the students, chamber of commerce Executive Director Lynda Pozzuto said.
“This is a resume booster, and the students make connections with our chamber members who mentor during the class,” she said.
Class size typically averages 10 students. Two sessions are held each month, from February through April.
Pozzuto noted the chamber encourages business growth and startup initiatives, and The Young Entrepreneur Program has been well-received.
Participants are awarded a stipend of several hundred dollars from the chamber to finance their businesses.
Students can expect to attend seven, two-hour sessions and learn to create business plans. There also are lessons in budgeting, legal aspects of running a business, problem-solving and developing a timeline to have a business operational within six weeks.
Each student in the program will be invited to participate in the 2018 Alle Kiski Strong HomExpo, set for May 4 to 6 at the Belmont Complex in Kittanning. The students can sell their products at the event.
“The feedback from the students has been wonderful,” Pozzuto said. “It's not just about them selling their product — and sometimes their business plans don't come to full fruition. But they still gain the knowledge on how to create a business plan that they can carry forth in whatever their future plans may be.”
Students who want to enroll in the program must have parental permission.
Past businesses started by program alumni have included quilting and woodworking.
Jace Rearick, 19, of Wayne Township, Armstrong County, is a freshman engineering major at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. He took part in the program and attended the HomExpo last year with the goal of getting his woodworking business and name out to the public.
“I made money from projects that were ordered at the show,” said Rearick, who handcrafts tables, cabinets, chairs, benches and more.
Rearick said his favorite part of the course was the guest speakers.
“I found it very interesting to listen to their advice and think about what I could do in order to start and maintain a successful business,” Rearick said.
The program culminates with a wrap-up dinner held locally and a business presentation by each student.
New this year is a contest element that still is in the planning stages, Pozzuto said.
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.