Houston Forward Times

04 September 2013 Written by  Ashura Baayan

MEET THE HOUSTON AREA’S LATEST TEENAGE BUSINESS OWNERS - Capital One Bank and the Houston Forward Times Help Texas Business Alliance Celebrate Graduates of Youth Entrepreneurship Academy

 The Capital One Bank headquarters in Houston, Texas was full of excitement and thrills, as the Texas Business Alliance recently held its 2013 Texas Business Alliance Youth Entrepreneurship Academy® (YEA) graduation ceremony on Saturday, August 31, 2013.

The Texas Business Alliance YEA program is a unique and innovative business incubator academy developed by the Texas Business Alliance that engages a select group of high school and college students in an exciting and rigorous process that prepares participants to launch and run their own businesses.

The Texas Business Alliance, a nonprofit small business development organization headquartered in Houston, Texas, developed the FREE six-month small business and development incubator program that not only equips high school and college students with the tools and resources they need to pursue an entrepreneurial alternative, but also gives them the necessary skills to further their education.

As a member of the Texas Business Alliance YEA program, all selected participants learn a range of business, financial and marketing skills ranging from writing a business plan to opening a business account that culminate in the opening of a real business. Additionally, YEA reaches out and exposes low- to moderate-income youth to community leaders, successful businessmen and women, and Houston movers and shakers.

To be selected, all applicants are judged on their desire to pursue an entrepreneurial path, history of community and/or civic involvement and financial need.

Texas Business Alliance YEA program modules include: entrepreneurial training, financial literacy, technology, economic language, practical experience, and business and life skills. Up to fifteen high school and college students enroll in the six-month program per year. Youth get a hands-on, dynamic experience of the fundamentals of business ownership and mentorship.

Participants meet on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month, where program facilitators teach classes and expose participants to successful entrepreneurs, bankers, business coaches, professional trainers, corporate executives and mentors.

Four Houston-area teens became the recent graduates of the six-month program, which to date, has graduated and helped launch over 35 new youth businesses in the Greater Houston area since 2009. The latest graduates of the 2013 class include: Amber Day, 18, Build-A-Book; Michael Hockless, 14, Mike’s Wacky Kreations; Aaliyah Smith, 17, Heart & Seoul Entertainment; and Jason Renaud, Jr., 18, J. Renaud Photography.

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The recent YEA program graduates, and Houston’s newest entrepreneurs, have all started their businesses, received their logos, enhanced their communication skills through developing a strong elevator sales pitch and obtained their DBAs.

They were celebrated and joined at the graduation ceremony by their family, friends and program supporters, as they were acknowledged.

As a prerequisite to graduation, each student had to develop a business plan, obtain a DBA, design a logo and participate in the YEA Shark Tank competition.

The YEA Shark Tank competition is a challenge meant to demonstrate their entire YEA comprehension, by providing a written business plan and delivering a 10-minute sales pitch to a select group of judges, made up of business people, corporate executives and previous YEA graduates. The business plans were judged on feasibility and completeness, and were scored separately and represented 50% of the final competition score. The other 50% of the score was based on the criteria in their presentation and their presentation skills.

The winner of the YEA Shark Tank competition wasn’t revealed and awarded until the graduation. Amber Day and her company Build-A-Book, was the winner of this year’s YEA Shark Tank competition. After jumping up and down with excitement and shock, Amber came up to receive the YEA Shark Tank award, which was more special than ever this year.

Texas Business Alliance Founder and CEO Jeffrey L. Boney invited the family of Patrick W. Fagan to the stage and announced at the graduation that the award would be officially called the Patrick W. Fagan YEA Shark Tank Award. Fagan was a graduate of the inaugural Texas Business Alliance YEA program in 2010, and was involved in a deadly car accident on May 4, 2013, while headed back to Stephen F. Austin, where he was attending college. He had started his company Tropical Paradise Villas and had used the lessons learned in the YEA program to save up enough money to purchase his own condo. He was planning to sale the condo prior to his death; an act that his parents will be fulfilling in his memory.

Graduates also received words of inspiration and motivation from veteran Houston businesswoman and Houston City Council District D candidate Ms. Georgia Provost, who challenged the graduates to stay focused, stay connected and continue learning.

One of the biggest surprises near the conclusion of the graduation came from Capital One Bank.

Capital One Bank, who has been a huge supporter and contributor to the Texas Business Alliance YEA program, came through for each graduate in an even greater way.

Laurie Vignaud, Sr. Director and Sr. Vice President of Community Development Banking and Marvett Howard of Capital One Bank shared with the graduates and their families that they were not only providing each graduate with a seed investment into their business of $500, they were also providing each of them with their own laptop computer.

Each graduate was shocked and overjoyed.

Mr. Boney, who developed the Texas Business Alliance YEA program and curriculum, believes that the YEA program is meaningful and deeply impactful.

“I am so proud of our recent graduates,” said Boney. “It brings me great joy and satisfaction, to know that we are doing something to help cultivate and inspire young people to realize their dreams.”

Mr. Boney states that he developed the curriculum for the Texas Business Alliance YEA program, with a mission to give young people the resources they need to pursue an entrepreneurial alternative and position them to establish a firm foundation to access the American dream.

The parents and guardians of the graduates have seen a true change in their children’s lives since having gone through the program and believe that the Texas Business Alliance YEA program has helped their children grow immensely.

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Desiree Day, whose daughter Amber Day won the 2013 Patrick W. Fagan YEA Shark Tank Award, thanked Mr. Boney and the YEA program for being wholeheartedly dedicated to sharing their experiences to help enrich Amber’s life.

“Something magical—life changing—happened to Amber during the YEA program,” said Desiree. “Thanks to your program, Amber says she literally sees the world as a place packed with endless opportunities—and she can visualize her future. After one of your classes, instead of coming home and watching TV and spending time texting, she shared her class experience with her brothers and then (to my surprise) picked up her math book, determined to make her weakness her strength.”

In addition to launching their businesses, many of the program participants have gone on to continue their education at Brown University, Rice University, Morehouse College, Texas Southern University, University of Houston, Houston Community College and many more institutions.
Statistics show that an unacceptable number of U.S. students in underserved communities fail to develop the academic, social and citizenship skills necessary to compete and succeed in today’s economy. The Texas Business Alliance YEA program is a method to bridge the gap and provide an alternative to the traditional career footprint.

Many of our youth have extremely creative, natural entrepreneurial minds prime to soak up knowledge that results in a success path that makes sense for them. By the end of the program, students have the theoretical and practical experience for exemplifying leadership, teamwork and citizenship. The Texas Business Alliance YEA program seeks to expose youth, particularly low- to moderate-income youth, to community leaders, successful businessmen and women and Houston movers and shakers.

The program is hosted and sponsored by platinum sponsor, Capital One Bank. Graciously underwriting the program also are: AT&T, Houston Forward Times, Comerica Bank, Hewlett-Packard, Shell Oil Company, H-E-B and CenterPoint Energy.

By the end of the program, students have the theoretical and practical experience for exemplifying leadership, teamwork, citizenship and small business ownership. The program culminates with the graduation ceremony and continues with ongoing mentorship. Graduates from the program also get the opportunity to showcase their businesses and sell their products and services as vendors at the One Woman National Business Conference that is held annually.

MAA WereReady