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Frisco Students Pitch Business Plans to ‘Shark Tank’ Style Panel

Suad Bejtovic Photography

Do you know a Frisco teenager who has an idea that could change the world? The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) is an educational program that takes students in grades six through twelve through the process of starting and running a real business over the course of a full academic year.

This year’s Frisco YEA class pitched their businesses to a panel of judges at the FISD Administrative Building last Tuesday, April 10. A total of $8,000 in funding was awarded to 16 businesses, and the panel selected one of them to represent Frisco at the YEA Saunders Scholars Competition in Rochester, NY.

The student-owned businesses ranged from smartphone apps to services and products, and even a fashion design brand. The young CEOs had to present their business and then answer probing questions from the panel. They had to provide financials, business plans, market report and other elements of business ownership. They’re developing those skills under the guidance of local business owners, community members, and educators, along with the YEA volunteer team in Frisco led by Peter Burns, program manager for YEA Frisco.

The winning business was ZipEats – the owners Julian and Ian, both middle-schoolers, are creating an app that connects fans at a sporting event with the concession stand, so they can order food and drinks without missing a moment of the action. Their presentation even included a mini-sketch featuring their siblings and Ian’s mom, and they also distributed some “concessions” to the panel.

I appreciate this a lot,” Julian said afterward. “I can’t even put into words how much hard work we put into this business idea. I’m really happy.”

Ian added, “We have to put more work in and prepare for the competition because we’re representing Texas. There is only one YEA in Texas, so we’re representing everyone.”

First alternate (in case ZipEats boys can’t go to Rochester) was Pari Pads, a program for manufacture and distribution of female hygiene pads to underprivileged girls in India, to empower them and help them focus on school. Their product is already in India through the non-profit Save The Child, and owners Vennela and Nitya are looking to expand the business.

The investor panel included business professionals such as Stefanie Wagoner, Director of Business Retention & Expansion, Frisco Economic Corporation; Tony Felker, President/CEO, Frisco Chamber of Commerce; Mary Von Ahnen, Horizon Hot Yoga; and last year’s Investor Panel winner, Gouzia Sivarajah, CEO and founder of SIINNO and a sophomore at Heritage High School.

The evening was hosted by Yvette Leslie, the entrepreneur inventor behind Smarter Hook. Peter Burns said she was selected precisely because her story mirrors the story of the student investors, with ups and downs of entrepreneurship that they could identify with.

Burns was happy for the students breaking down another big barrier – public speaking.

In the class, they couldn’t see themselves doing it, some of them didn’t even want their parents to be here,” said Burns. “It was their first public presentation that says, ‘I have a solution.’ Now that they’ve done it, that first initial fear is gone, and they know they can do it now. Hopefully what they get out of this today is that now that they started the race, they can actually finish it.”

About Young Entrepreneurs Academy Frisco

The 33-week program takes motivated middle and high school students through the process of launching and running their own real businesses in a fun, exciting, hands-on projects-based approach while developing lifelong leadership skills.

Sponsored by the Frisco Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Frisco ISD and the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, the program offers dynamic guest speakers from the business community, as well as trips to local companies. Students develop professional skills, connect with local, legendary entrepreneurs, pitch to investors for start-up funding, launch their own real, legal businesses, and have the opportunity to participate in a national college scholarship competition.

Participants work with mentors to identify their passions and transform their ideas into a fully formed business or social movement. Many YEA graduates have continued to operate businesses they developed through the program even after they graduate high school and continue their education.