On Tuesday, April 28th, 10 budding CEO’s graduated from the Pensacola Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA). YEA is led by Randy Ramos, CEO of GBSI, one of Inc. magazine’s top growing companies for the past four years. When Ramos was in grade school, he was sent to the Principal’s office for selling gum to his peers for 25 cents – no soliciting was allowed. Now, he provides entrepreneurial training to the next generation.
For the past two years, the Ramos team (Randy, wife Terri and daughter Erin) have supported the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, providing business classes over the course of thirty weeks to Pensacola middle and high school students. The participants met for three hours once a week, learning business basics such as writing a business plan, marketing, and leveraging social media under the watchful eye of a mentor.
The following businesses were established this year:
Carey Creations – Michael Carey, age 11
Charger Guard – Evan Naquin, age 15
Coterie Beads – Ceirra Moore, age 10
Customized by You – Rylee Ballard, age 11 and Catherine Lambert, age 14
Missing Petals – Grace Stanley, age 12
Flag Masters – Chance & Chandler VanOverberghe, age 12
Spark of Creativity Academy (SOCA) – Ian Robertson, age 11
Your Just Desserts by Thomas – Thomas Booker, age 15
The capstone event of the training program is a student presentation to an 11-member “Shark Tank” style Investor Panel comprised of local CEO’s. Each member of the Shark Tank contributed $600 to participate, creating a pool of real funding for the budding entrepreneurs. Each company received investments ranging from $400-$1,250 based on the strength of their business plan, presentation, perceived sustainability of their business and organizational need.
The top three companies this year, Coterie Beads, Your Just Desserts by Thomas and Missing Petals all happen to be owned by the only African American students in the program, winning first, second and third respectively. As members of the Pensacola NAACP Youth Council, all three later travelled to Orlando to present at the State Regional Conference, where they shared business development and how they overcame adversity. “I went through two other companies before developing Coterie Beads,” said Ceirra Moore, CEO. “I was determined and refused to quit. When one business ran into a dead end, I moved to the next one.”
Second place winner Thomas Booker, CEO of Your Just Desserts by Thomas shared, “I noticed how people reacted to my Mom’s cupcakes. I realized that I could take them to the next level.” Third place winner Grace Stanley, CEO of Missing Petals, a Human Trafficking Awareness organization dedicated to sharing the dangers of human trafficking, especially to children, shared the origins of her company. “I looked up Human Trafficking after the 300 Nigerian Girls were abducted. When I found out what it was about, I wanted others to know,” she said.
Obviously, these children are determined to succeed. Booker received the highest investment of the evening, as well as a $500 gift card from Sam’s Club. Ever the entrepreneur, Thomas explained that his business name is not “Cupcakes by Thomas” because he plans to expand his offerings to cookies, cheesecakes and a variety of tasty treats. “When people change their names, their customers don’t know who they are anymore…that is why my company is “Your Just Desserts by Thomas, because I definitely plan to expand!” Booker offers free delivery of his desserts, and at a very young age demonstrates the vision of a great leader!
Next month, Ceirra will head to Boca Raton to compete in the YEA Regional Competition, the last stop before nationals in Washington D.C. Visit www.pensacolachamberofcommerce/events/yea.com for more information regarding next year’s Academy. Each young entrepreneur is in the process of developing their own websites, and will soon be available at www.coteriebeads.com, www.missingpetals.com. Booker can be reached through his Facebook page, “Your Just Desserts by Thomas.”