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posted: 8/13/2012 6:56 PM

Chambers offer students chance to develop and start businesses

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  • Video: Learn about the YEA! program


A national program teaching high school students how to start and run their own businesses with the help of local business owners is expanding this year in the Northwest suburbs.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy -- a yearlong program also known as YEA! that was started in 2004 -- will be offered in Mount Prospect, Palatine and Des Plaines through those communities' chambers of commerce, officials said.

The program's other Illinois locations include Arlington Heights, where it is being hosted for a second year; Lake Zurich, now in its fifth year; and Lincoln Square in Chicago.

Palatine Chamber of Commerce director Mindy Phillips said students can expect to learn "all the nuts and bolts of putting a business together."

"They get to get a good understanding of what it takes to have your own business," she said. "They get the firsthand thrills and perils of being a business owner."

Program details vary for each chamber, but the three chambers that are new to YEA! will be partnering with local school districts and hosting weekly, three-hour long classes at nearby schools.

Over the course of the program students will brainstorm business ideas, write a business plan and interact with business professionals, learning about everything from measuring monthly sales projections and operating costs to launching partnerships and marketing campaigns.

At the end of the program participants get a chance to register their business, participate in a trade show and pitch their plan to potential investors.

"It's a pretty incredible opportunity for a student who wants to go into business and has a great idea," said Theresa Busch, assistant superintendent for instruction at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, which is partnering with the Palatine Chamber on the program.

Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barbara Ryan said students will get a chance to go on field trips to a variety of places, including a "cool business," a franchise and a sports arena or theater, where they will learn what it takes to run those operations. They will also visit an ad agency, be taught how to file a business license through the Cook County Clerk's office and have an appointment with a personal stylist.

"In this class they're going to get the encouragement they need to be successful at this," she said, adding that the skills they will learn "are things they should remember and use throughout life."

Dale Perrin, executive director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, said some former students are still carrying out the businesses they created during YEA!, including one participant who has patents pending for a motorized electric skateboard.

"It is without a doubt life-changing training for them," he said. "If the kids walk away with anything out of the class they're going to walk away with a little less fear of public speaking."

Business professionals are needed to volunteer their time by serving as guest speakers, mentors, investors, field trip hosts, business plan reviewers and more.

Each program is limited to 24 students, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full. Tuition costs $195 per student. Anyone interested in being a participant or a volunteer should contact their local chamber. For more information on YEA! visit

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