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Young Entrepreneurs Innovate in Difficult Environment

May 23, 2020 08:57AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Being a student entrepreneur is difficult enough, but add in the unexpected changes brought on by the coronavirus shutdown, and this year's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) students faced their biggest challenges yet.

The YEA! program, run by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, each year supports a small cohort of students who have dreams of starting a business. The students meet weekly throughout the school year to develop their businesses, with the advice of local business owners and community leaders. This year's class, however, had to finish out their final, nail-biting chapter - pitching their business idea to investors - online rather than in person.

"This was a really special class," said YEA! program manager Nellie Ambrose.  "From the get-go, even though they were each starting separate businesses, the class of 2020 was a team. Despite being in grades 6 through 12, they supported each other, gave constructive feedback to each other and seemed to really enjoy being together."

Ambrose continued: "And then it all came to a screeching halt in March. We asked them to shift into online mode and they didn't miss a step. Our speakers, our instruction, everything went online. The big event of the year, the Investor Panel, the night where they would pitch their product to a group of investors for real funding, became an online event. They got to work writing, producing and editing their pitch as their 'Shark Tank'-style evening was reduced to a 2x2 encounter on a screen. Each one of them did an amazing job and really found the key to showcasing their product or service online. We are so proud of them and look forward to seeing where they take their idea."

Investors Choose Winning Business


The investors selected student Taylor Ryan and her business, Unstoppable Protective Gear, to advance to the national Young Entrepreneurs Academy Saunders Scholars Competition this summer. Ryan, an 8th grader at Manhattan Beach Middle School, founded Unstoppable Protective Gear to make protective inserts for sports bras for contact sports like lacrosse.

As the designated Saunders scholar, Ryan will represent the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce at the Saunders Scholars National Conference and Competition in Rochester, NY, on August 29.  At the competition, students from across the country present their business ideas and compete for recognition and college scholarships.

"When I won I was shocked and excited," said Ryan. "I was so excited to be receiving this amazing award, but shocked because there were so many other good candidates. Then I was immediately so grateful to The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce and Rotary for sponsoring the Young Entrepreneur Academy so that I could have this opportunity. I will forever be grateful for the lessons and opportunities YEA has given me."

The first runner-up was Heather Jensen of YBuy, an app that allows people to borrow under-utilized household items and also make donations.

The full list of 2019/2020 Manhattan Beach YEA! participants (and their businesses) included: 

Sid Attam - Water Me (a Bluetooth control watering system for plants/pets)
Alex Chase - Customized Couture (custom collegiate t-shirts)
Coda Christopherson - Sustainable Schools (an online market for sustainable products)
Mac Cutler - Hope for Hygiene (hygiene products for the homeless)
Fiona De France - Aquava (water proof accessory holder)
Ethan Eddins - Wingman (pilot/student referral app)
Mason Green - Tech Teen Crew (technology set-up service)
Heather Jensen - Ybuy (clothing or other items loan program)
Hope Kim - Swagify (custom stickers and magnets)
Matthew Milan - Performance Pastries (healthy protein muffins)
Taylor Ryan - Unstoppable Protective Gear (protective inserts for sports bras)
Luca Shaer - Skafety (shin protectors for skateboarding)
Jason Stoianov - Therapy Matchmaker (therapy finding service)
Amelia Zhang - Green Box (environmental education learning for schools)

Based on the appeal and merit of the students’ plans and presentations, the investor panel determined the amount of funds to allocate to each business or social movement. All students received funding to start their businesses.

This year's investor panel included Latrice McGlothin of Kinecta; David Gendron of Manhattan Beach Rotary; Danila Koverman of Fusion Academy; Susan Bales and Andrew Goldstein of the Bales Family Foundation; Tom Chieffe, a business investor; Brad Sperber of Manhattan Beach Toyota; and Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery.

Young Entrepreneurs Academy Program


YEA! is a program offered through the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. Students meet once a week after school to learn all the strategies for creating and starting their own legal business. More than 50 volunteers from the community give their time to help students launch entrepreneurial endeavors. Volunteers who provide assistance include graphic designers who help bring students' visions to life; CEOs who impart business wisdom and knowledge; and accountants, lawyers, speech coaches, and more who help them acquire the tools they need to succeed.

For more information, applications, or to volunteer, contact Nellie Ambrose at YEAmb@manhattanbeachchamber.com




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