For Lakeville middle school students: Business building 101

Lakeville kicks off state’s first Young Entrepreneurs Academy

Todd Bornhauser

Todd Bornhauser

Lakeville’s business community and schools have kicked off Minnesota’s first Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a program intended to teach students how to launch their own business.

The Lakeville Area School District and All Saints Catholic School are partnering with the Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce, with support from Lakeville Rotary, to start YEA, often described as “Shark Tank” meets “The Apprentice.”

Students from all Lakeville middle schools were invited to apply for the after-school program, which started Wednesday, Oct. 2, and continues through May 2014. Twenty-four were selected to participate, said Todd Bornhauser, chamber president.

“We had some outstanding students apply,” Bornhauser said. “They have great communication skills. There are some with an outstanding engineering, analytical mindset and are good with numbers. Some of the students had their own small business and they were looking for how to expand that business.”

During classes led by Century Middle School teacher Stacy Luurtsema, the sixth- through eighth-graders will brainstorm business ideas or a social movement.

Students in YEA will have access to some of the most prominent business owners and community leaders in and around Lakeville.

They will hear from guest speakers that include an attorney, accountant and a CEO panel as well as work with a mentor from the business community who will help them develop a business plan and analyze its strengths and weaknesses.

Planned field trips include visiting an advertising agency, sports marketing business and BTD Manufacturing in Lakeville, a company that builds molds used in production.

The students will develop a presentation for a 12-member investor panel that includes real estate business owner Colleen LaBeau and Glenn Starfield, owner of Express Employment Professionals and a member of the Lakeville Economic Development Commission.

Investor panel members will award money to some or all of the student business ideas.

Through fundraising from the chamber, Rotary and local businesses, the investors have $6,000 to spend.

The amounts will vary, and some ideas may not attract any investors.

“That is the real world,” Bornhauser said. “You walk into a bank and sometimes you get money, sometimes you get less than you ask for and sometimes you get turned down.”

Starfield said he plans to encourage the students and will be looking for new, innovative ideas.

He said the program was aimed at middle school students to fill a void and provide opportunities for students who may not be involved in sports or arts.

Lakeville School Board Chair Roz Peterson said she is excited about the program.

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to help grow entrepreneurs,” she said. “I think it’s something that will come back tenfold.”

She said the program offers students a different perspective in education that could result in a new generation of Lakeville business owners.

“Instead of teaching someone how to do a job, how about if we teach them how to make a job?” Peterson said.

The class will also register their business, work with business mentors to manufacture their product and present it at a trade show.

Bornhauser said they hope to hold the event in conjunction with Lakeville’s annual South of the River Business Expo in May.

Starfield said he believes the program will take off and be “something the kids will gravitate toward.”

LaBeau also predicted success for the new program, noting that her own business interest started from a young age.

She said she was 9 years old when she started babysitting, then ran a newspaper route with her family, held garage sales and started a cleaning business at age 11.

“So many times we underestimate these kids’ abilities, for some of these kids to think outside the box,” LaBeau said. “I know they can do anything they put their mind to.”

To become a business sponsor or find out more about the program, contact the chamber at 952-469-2020.

More information about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy is at www.yealakeville.com.

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