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Teen Completes WG Youth Entrepreneur Academy

John Jones presents his business concept during his wgYEA graduation.

Are there enterprising high school students in west Georgia ready to take a business idea and run with it? You bet! And John Jones, junior at Central High School, was the first finalist to complete the West Georgia Youth Entrepreneur Academy (wgYEA) with hopes of launching his entrepreneurial dream.

The idea for this Academy came from Donna Armstrong-Lackey, Vice President of Business Development of Carroll Tomorrow and director of The Burson Center for Entrepreneurship. “Research revealed that there is no other economic development organization-sponsored youth entrepreneurship program in the state of Georgia,” she noted.  She modeled wgYEA after programs in Kansas and student incubation programs run by Purdue and Syracuse universities with special emphasis on the expertise of area community professionals.

“Our goal is to provide business support for high school students that allows them to start a business before ever graduating from high school,” Armstrong-Lackey said. “The business incubation resources available through The Burson Center and our state-wide partners provide added benefit that they would otherwise not be able to access.”

The 14-week Academy included sessions focused on writing a business plan, business operations, manufacturing guidelines, marketing, presentation skills, attracting investors and leadership skills. Each session was led by a professional from such organizations as the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, UWG’s Richards College of Business (RCOB), the Small Business Development Center and Georgia Dept. of Economic Development.

“I am so thankful to The Burson Center for this opportunity and I am going to stay on track with my business development,” Jones stated, “I am planning to attend Georgia Tech and my plans are to expand the business even farther while I’m in the engineering program there.” Jones' project is still being held trade secret due to provisional patent work yet to be completed, but the innovative concept is catching the attention of several investors.

Student participants are matched with a business planning mentor from the RCOB to shepherd them through the program. Lauren Holverson, MBA graduate student, said it was an honor to mentor John. “It’s wonderful to be a part of a program that truly educates and assists young entrepreneurs in their journey to start a successful business in today’s rapidly changing market,” she said.  “These bright and innovative students can really make a difference in the world with their business ideas.”

Dr. Kimberly Green, RCOB assistant professor of management who taught the sessions on business planning, finds it interesting to see the wide variety of ideas that can emerge from an entrepreneurial mindset. “The training provided in the wgYEA program offers the tools to direct the drive, determination and energy toward turning a product or service idea into a reality,” she said. “Whether those students are ready to start a business now or are looking toward the future, understanding the process of entrepreneurship can help them improve their chances for succeeding.”

As the finalist for the first Academy class, John received a cash voucher and will have six months of free business assistance from The Burson Center and their partners.
The Academy is open to students at least 16 years old from Bowdon, Bremen, Carrollton, Central, Haralson County, Heard County, Mt. Zion, Temple, and Villa Rica High Schools and Oak Mountain Academy.   Applications for next year’s Academy will be available January 15, 2014 online at www.bursoncenter.com.

wgYEA was made possible by the financial support from the Community Foundation of West Georgia, Southwire and Enterprise Holdings Foundation.
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