By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
In the inaugural offering of “YEA!” in 2015-16, local entrepreneur Haseeb Qureshi shared instructional duties. This academic year, he’s responsible for all of the instruction, and he could not be happier.
“I’m bringing my own experiences to the table,” he says.
We sat down recently with the always upbeat Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Audiohand to learn more about the second cohort of middle and high school students participating in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy – that’s the official name – that is an initiative of the Knoxville Chamber.
“Last year’s class formed 12 businesses or social movements,” Qureshi said. “This year, we started with several of the students already having established businesses, and we expect to have as many as 17 presented at the Investor Night event.” One of the student businesses that had already been established is selling vintage clothing, applying her own touch to the offerings, while another has a hand-made jewelry business.
The second edition of the 30-week program launched in early October with 20 students, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years old, and representing 14 different schools in the region.
“We have three 11-year olds – two females and a male,” Qureshi says, emphasizing the importance of inspiring entrepreneurial spirit at early ages.
The 20 students attend weekly three-hour sessions that Qureshi instructs along with guest speakers and business mentors. There’s a good deal of group interaction and brainstorming along with visits to some interesting places like the new Local Motors microfactory.
Most of the students will pitch their business ideas for a chance to win investment capital at the “YEA!” Investor Panel February 21. Click here for more details and to register.
Although only in its second year, Knoxville’s version of the national program is making great strides.
“We’re realizing Knoxville is one of ‘YEA’s!’ bigger markets,” Qureshi said
As far as the knowledge he is sharing, Qureshi says he is helping the “YEA!” students understand three important principles for any successful entrepreneur:
- Do others get excited about the idea?
- Can you make cost and profit work?
- Are you excited about the idea?
He also has the students understand the potential size of the market for their idea and others in the space.
“How big it (the market) is determines if you win,” Qureshi reminds the young entrepreneurs.
“We’re getting ideas formed and holding their feet to the fire,” he says of the approach he’s taking.
Even though the 2016-17 “YEA!” program is still underway, the Chamber notes that applications for the next year will be open in April.