First Young Entrepreneurs Class Present their Case Business Funding


Five minutes is the amount of time students in the Mobile Area Chamber’s inaugural Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) had to pitch businesses they have envisioned, developed and nurtured to an investor panel for possible business funding.


On April 4, the efforts by three partners – the Chamber, Alabama School of Math and Science (ASMS) and the University of South Alabama (USA) – along with the sweat equity of the 13 ASMS students came to fruition.


The students presented seven business ideas from products to services to nonprofit organizations, competing for $5,500. Start-up monies were donated by local YEA sponsors, including Chalkable, Alabama Power Co., Sam’s Club, Warren Averett, Workshops Etc! Inc. and the Ben May Charitable Trust.


Shoe Boo was the local winner. Entrepreneurs Isabella Fank and Dominique Williams will advance to the regional competition. Six regional winners advance to the YEA Saunders Scholars National College Scholarship competition for scholarships, business start-up packages and an all-expenses paid trip to attend the U.S. Chamber’s America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C.


The funding allocations, businesses and entrepreneurs were as follows:

  • $500: Diddo Case, a new type of secure luggage that better protects important files through Touch ID and GPS tracking technologies. Entrepreneurs: Anasofia Guajardo, Wesley Oliver, Sung-Hoon Park and Ambria Walker.
  • $600: Fruity Beauty, organic hair dyes, lipstick and facial masks featuring fruits and vegetables as the main ingredients. Entrepreneur: Catherine Minor.
  • $1,200: Odyssey, a virtual reality dating application that allows users to create avatars of themselves and go on dates in virtual reality scenes. Entrepreneur: Eric Lee.  
  • $720: Perk Packs, customizable care packages that can be sent to students by parents, families and friends. Entrepreneur: Genevieve Tillman.
  • $880: Rural Rebuilders of America, not-for-profit mentoring organization paring volunteers with local youth. Entrepreneur: Messiah Williams.
  • $ 1,000: Shoe Boo, malleable shoe insert to protect feet from new or ill-fitting shoes. Entrepreneurs: Isabella Fank and Dominique Williams.
  • $600: Southern Scenes, a t-shirt company featuring college-affiliated designs. Entrepreneur: Jon Ross Sanders.


“Anytime we can nurture and strengthen entrepreneurship, we are building future wealth and ensuring a stronger tomorrow,” said the Mobile Area Chamber’s President and CEO Bill Sisson. “What we’re seeing through YEA is that high school students are innovative. Our partnership with the Alabama School of Math and Science and the University of South Alabama is sure to yield impressive results.”


The panel of investors included Dr. Ron Eastburn, assistant professor, USA Mitchell College of Business; Brent McClure, chief financial officer, Chalkable; Andy Newton, president & CEO, Southern Light; John Peebles, principal, NAI Mobile; Jill Stork, division area manager, Alabama Power Co.; and Mel Washington, regional manager & lead counselor, Alabama Small Business Development Center at USA.


“We are delighted that ASMS students have the opportunity to participate in this phenomenal program,” said ASMS President Monica Motley. “The YEA Academy speaks to the ideas and concepts we want our students to learn. Teaching entrepreneurship skills fosters innovation and strengthens leadership skills that our students will be able to use in college and beyond. This collaborative program with ASMS, the Chamber of Commerce and the University of South Alabama has been great partnership and a rewarding experience for our students.”


Thirteen students, all from ASMS, were selected through an application and interview process into the pilot group of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored program adopted locally by the Mobile Area Chamber. Students participated in 30 weeks of after-school instruction at USA learning how to create a business plan, logo and website, and conduct market research. ASMS students will graduate from the YEA program on May 2, 2016.


About YEA

YEA was founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation. It is an after-school, year-long program with nearly 3,000 graduates who launched more than 1,700 businesses. The U.S. Chamber became a national sponsor and partner of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in 2011. Mobile is one of 168 communities across the U.S.