Youth Entrepreneur Program program kicks off Feb. 16

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― Organizers of a new, grant-funded program are hoping that young entrepreneurs just say YEP.

Next Thursday, Page County's Young Entrepreneur Program (YEP) will officially kick off at Luray High School. Funded through a $22,596 state grant, the program is aimed at fostering budding entrepreneurs between the ages of 16 and 25. Presented through a partnership between the local school system, the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, the Hawksbill Trading Co. and Lord Fairfax Community College, participants will meet weekly over the course of four months to develop and implement business plans with the help of local business leaders and mentors.

“The program will really create some community excitement about the possibility of helping young entrepreneurs get started,” said Superintendent for Page County Public Schools Donna Whitley-Smith.

At the end of the program, participants will present their plans during a competition night. Seven winners will then be selected to receive rent-free space at the Hawksbill Trading Co. in Luray for a year.

“What we're hoping is that not only can we teach them how to be resourceful with their skills and interests to supplement or even be a primary source of income, but that working side by side with local business leaders will inspire them,” said President of the the Hawksbill Trading Co. Board of Directors Jay North.

By partnering participants with mentors, YEP is aimed at helping young entrepreneurs brainstorm money-making ventures that they may have otherwise overlooked, such as services.

“Something that may seem as mundane as mowing a lawn or shoveling snow can become a way to make money,” said North. “A few clients can lead to extra income. That clientele can build, and suddenly, you have a small business.”

Personal interests and hobbies can also lead to business plans, continued North. Photography and videography, for instance, can become “real-world” business ventures.

“Giving young people an opportunity to capitalize on their interests and skill sets in a non-traditional work setting provides the possibility for them to become more employable and more resourceful,” North said. “The goal is to inspire innovation within their fields of interest, but also in their personal lives.”

Page County's YEP kicks off at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 16, at Luray High School. Business planning sessions are slated from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning Feb. 22 and running through April 26. Each session will feature special speakers, planning periods, local business owners and a light dinner. 

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