Susan Dozier believes that one way to produce strong business leaders is to get 'em while they're young.
That's why Dozier, second vice president and branch manager with American Chartered Bank in Mount Prospect, is such an active supporter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Prospect High School.
"Younger people are more apt to think outside the box," Dozier said. "And that's something business really needs. So giving young people the real-world lessons they need to make their ideas happen couldn't be more valuable."
The YEA program will begin its third year at Prospect this fall -- the local version of a national program that began in 2004.
The program takes students in grades 7 through 12 through the process of launching and operating a small business. The students meet with area business leaders, pitch ideas to a panel of investors and learn how to obtain funding for their projects.
Past programs have produced notable success stories, like Jeff Blethen and Kyle Blatt, who launched a business around their product, the Zzzsock, during the program's first year. The Zzzsock is a blanket-sleeping bag hybrid designed to keep college-dorm beds looking neat with little time or effort. The two continue to work on the business while in college.
"The students have been amazing so far, really creative and hardworking," said Dawn Fletcher Collins, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce, which helps administer the program.
Dozier, who has sat on the investor panel that hears students' pitches, said one of the most rewarding moments for her is when a student is asked a question and responds by saying, "I never thought of that before."
"That's great because you know you're having a positive impact," she said. "You can see that you're teaching them."
Applications for the fall session, which runs November through April, are being accepted now. The forms can be found at the national YEA website, yeausa.com, or at the Mount Prospect chamber's website, mountprospectchamber.org.
To volunteer or for other information, call the chamber at (847) 398-6616