The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) teaches middle and high school go-getters how to start and run their own real businesses.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! has helped more than 4,000 students nationwide launch over 3,000 businesses and social movements.

This program offers students the chance to:

  • Develop hands-on entrepreneurial experience to launch their own business or social movement
  • Connect with local entrepreneurs
  • Pitch to a panel of investors for startup funding
  • Gain confidence in their ideas, abilities and presentation skills

YEA! guides students through the process of fulfilling their very own American Dream. Students are taught by trained instructors and are exposed to guest lecturers, successful entrepreneurs, and mentors to bridge the gap between the educational and business communities.

Over the course of the program, students:

  • Brainstorm business ideas
  • Write a business plan
  • Interact with business professionals
  • Attend field trips for a behind-the-scenes look at local businesses
  • Pitch their business plan to local investors for start-up funding and the opportunity to advance to regional and national competitions
  • Legally register their businesses
  • Participate in a local YEA! Trade Show
  • Launch and run their own business or social movement
  • Graduate from the program with lifelong leadership and business skills

Application and Student Selection Process

Application Form

Student Nomination Form

YEA! welcomes applications from all students in grades six through 12 who are between 11 and 18 years old. Students interested in starting their own real business may apply for acceptance into the program by completing the application, which includes an essay and short-answer questions, school transcripts, and a letter of recommendation.

Once the completed application is received, students may be invited to attend 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. 

2018-2019 Calendar

YEA! classes meet November through June for three hours weekly. There are no classes during regular school holidays and recesses.

  • Summer and Fall 2018: Applications Accepted
  • Application Deadline: Oct. 12, 2018
  • Parent/Student Orientation: Nov. 1, 2018
  • Class Starts and Tuition Fee ($100) due: Nov. 7, 2018
  • Investor Panel: April 3, 2019
  • Trade Show: May 15, 2019
  • Graduation: May 22, 2019
  • Regional Competition: May 3, 2019
  • National Competition: TBA

Get Involved as a Community Member

Share your business wisdom with aspiring young entrepreneurs and help them get started on the path to success! We’re seeking expert professionals to volunteer their time as guest speakers, mentors, investors, graphic designers, field trip hosts, business plan reviewers, and more. The time YEA! students spend with adults who encourage their futures is invaluable, and you can play an important role in guiding our future leaders.

If you are interested in getting involved with YEA! and being inspired by your community’s great young minds, contact Sara Vivyan at 315-792-5472 or


A big thank you to our sponsors, who have helped bring YEA! to the Mohawk Valley, including:

  • Beebe Construction
  • M&T Bank
  • Mohawk Limited
  • First Source Federal Credit Union
  • Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce

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.