Young Entrepreneurs Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a groundbreaking and exciting program that transforms local middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs.

This will be the ninth year that MVCC has hosted the program in the greater Utica area and applications are now open for the upcoming class!  

Apply today for the 2020-2021 year! Applications are due Friday, Oct. 2!

Students from all local school districts are encouraged to apply and educators are invited to nominate students they believe will excel in the program. Full and partial scholarships are available to qualifying students.

Who can apply?

The class is open to students in grades six through 12 (ages 11 to 18) from any local school district and class size is limited.

When are classes?

Classes will be held on Wednesday evenings from Oct. 14, 2020, to May 12, 2021.

To be COVID-compliant and keep our students safe, we are using alternative locations and methods of class delivery this year:

  • October-November: Class will be held at thINCubator, 326 Broad St. in Downtown Utica—great creative space that the students love and that has plenty of space to spread out to work and learn.
  • December-Mid-January: Class will be held virtually through Zoom with supplemental one-on-one and/or small group Zoom meetings as needed. 
  • Jan. 20-May 5: Class will be held at MVCC Utica Campus, room(s) TBD. 
  • May 12: Trade show and graduation at thINCubator

In-person class time: 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Virtual class time: 4:30-6 p.m. 

Classes are not held during school breaks. 

What is the class like?

During the class, students:       

  • Learn how to create a business they are passionate about
  • Complete market research and develop a business plan
  • Work one-on-one with business mentors and graphic designers
  • Attend field trips to learn from local entrepreneurs
  • Pitch their ideas at a "Shark Tank"-style investor panel presentation to win real start-up funds
  • Legally register their business as a DBA
  • Take part in a trade show
  • Graduate from the program with lifelong leadership and business skills

One student from the program is chosen to represent our class at the Saunders Scholars national competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology and will compete against students from all over the country! Other prizes include an annual membership to the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce.

Application Process 

Student will need to:

  • Complete the application
  • Answer three short-answer questions
  • Write a 300-word essay
  • Get one letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor
  • Get a copy of their academic transcript
  • Complete an in-person interview

Acceptance into the program is based on all aspects of the completed application as well as the personal interview. Prior business experience is not required, nor is it required to have a business idea prior to the start of class. 


2020-2021 Calendar

  • Application deadline: Friday, Oct. 2, 2020
  • Student interviews (Zoom): week of Oct. 5, 2020
  • Parent/Student Orientation: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in person or virtual (TBD)
  • First Class: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020
  • Investor Panel: Wednesday, March 31, 2021
  • Trade Show and Graduation: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
  • National Saunders Scholars Competition in Rochester, N.Y.: TBD

Have questions?

We will be holding two Zoom Q&A sessions for students and parents:

  • 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020
    • ID: 832 4373 0965 / Password: 303905
  • 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020
    • ID: 891 1482 2491 / Password: 606018


Michelle Truett, Program Manager, YEA Instructor since 2012

Thank you to our 2019-2020 program partners:

  • M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund
  • Berkshire Bank
  • First Source Federal Credit Union
  • Utica Observer-Dispatch

The University of Rochester started YEA! in 2004 with support from the Kauffman Foundation and is now in 168 communities across America with classes also in Shanghai, China, and India. More than 4,000 students nationwide have launched over 3,000 businesses and social movements. 

YEA! USA is made possible by the Kauffman Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the E. Philip Saunders Foundation. We also thank our national supporters—Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines.