Entrepreneur course seeks more students


Staff Writer

Monday, December 4, 2017

N.C. Wesleyan College’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy has been slow to take off the ground. 

The entrepreneurship program started in 2013 first under the umbrella of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce before going under the wing of Wesleyan. Over the years, the program has had a low number of students sign up and currently has six students going through the 30-week program, which aims to help students launch real businesses and social movements.

In an effort to draw more awareness, the N.C. Wesleyan College’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy recently held a community partnership event at the Rose Hill Conference Center to garner more community support and get the local business community involved going into 2018. The event had several business and community leaders come out to hear what the program is all about.

Leah Easterlin, program director of N.C. Wesleyan College’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, gave a brief presentation and said the local program is the only one currently going in North Carolina out of 110 programs across the United States.

Easterlin said students from grades six to 12 are taught hands-on entrepreneurial education such as being able to write business plans, prepare and pitch to investors, obtain financial backing, register their businesses or social organizations, develop marketing plans and materials, prepare for trade shows and sell their products and services.

Mayor David Combs said the program is a great example of starting the foundation of building and growing entrepreneurs in the Twin Counties. David Walker, director of the Eastern North Carolina Center for Business & Entrpreneurship at N.C. Wesleyan College, said he’s hoping more business and community leaders will get more involved and maybe give some financial support.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy will begin recruiting students for next year’s class beginning in April.

“We’re hoping with word of mouth that we will be able to get more students involved,” Walker said. “This is a good program, but our community is conservative. We’ve asked them to look at this as an after-school sport for their child, which the student can have a bonafide business when they finish. Hopefully, when they see the success and businesses that come out of it of with kids getting finance and receiving money for their businesses, that will create more interest.”

The Young Enterpreneurs Academy also features students going on business field trips designed for them to explore local businesses and understand how different enterprises work by touring local companies and meeting with business professionals. Last month, the students visited the Chic-Fil-A to learn about a food franchise.

Bill Lehnes, owner of Chic-Fil-A in Rocky Mount, said he was a bit surprised by the interest the group of students showed.

“The level of engagement they had as we discussed market studies and the value of the brand was amazing,” Lehnes said. “You could see the light bulb go off as they considered their business ideas, and how they could be better. It was a pleasure to host these students, and I hope I get the opportunity to work with them in the future.”

David Joyner, president of Joyner Media & Strategies Inc, said the Young Entrepreneur Academy is an exciting and vital tool that the area is fortunate to have in the region.

“One thing that is undoubtedly clear is that the success and reinvention of our economy here in Eastern North Carolina will be and must be shaped by growing and attracting entrepreneurs to build their businesses here,” Joyner said. “YEA! is a strategic tool toward securing and creating that future, and my firm was proud to assist in bringing awareness and coordinating the open house event about this innovative entrepreneurial education program.”