Capital Region Students Turn Business Ideas into Reality

Capital Region middle and high school students are often balancing school with athletics, extracurricular activities, and perhaps even part-time jobs.  But a much smaller number can add another responsibility to their already busy schedules: business owner.

These students are recent graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) run out of the University at Albany School of Business.

Developed at the University of Rochester in 2004 with the support of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! teaches students in grades 6-12 how to start and run their own real businesses.

The unique program was introduced to the School of Business in the summer of 2010 with recruiting efforts for the inaugural class beginning shortly thereafter.   The first group of admitted students, ranging in ages from 11-17, came from a variety of Capital Region schools including Shaker High School, Bethlehem High School, Niskayuna High School, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, and LaSalle Institute.

Their businesses were as diverse as the students themselves.  From landscaping to organic candy to homemade accessories, students developed an idea reflecting their own passions and interests.

At the helm of the class was YEA! Instructor and Director of UAlbany's award winning Small Business Development Center Director, Bill Brigham.  In addition to helping students hone their ideas, he introduced them to things like market analysis, e-commerce, and business plan basics.  With additional support from mentors, guest speakers, a
nd graphic designers, students were prepared for the program's culminating events - the YEA! Trade Show and Investor Panel.

The Trade Show, held at Crossgates Mall in 2012, gave students an opportunity to highlight their businesses to the local community.  They distributed business cards, collected data from potential customers, and even sold products.  The Investor Panel allowed students to pitch their businesses to members of the local business community for real startup funds.

The two years that followed brought more unique ideas from students included a promotions company, a coupon app for teens, a hands free case for your iPad, and even socially conscious ventures like web based forums for victims of bullying and young people battling Crohn's Disease.

Now entering its fourth year, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at the University at Albany School of Business continues to grow thanks in part to lead sponsor, Turf Hotels, Inc.  Additional support has also been provided by Bank of America, Erie Insurance, and the Times Union.

Applications for 2013-14 are now being accepted.  Whether a young person you know already has a business started or he or she is simply looking to learn more about entrepreneurship, this program may be right for them.  Students are guaranteed a small classroom environment and individualized attention throughout the 8-month program that meets every Tuesday from 4-7 PM.  On top of that, students and graduates can now apply to appear on ABC's Shark Tank thanks to a recently formed partnership between the CEO and Founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and the show's producers and casting directors.  

For an application or for more information, contact YEA! Recruitment Manager Jason Cotugno ( or YEA! Program Manager Sally Mills (