Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook at 19.
Steve Jobs started Apple at 21.
Bill Gates launched Microsoft in his 20’s.
While research varies regarding the ideal age to launch a business, the innovations coming out of tech companies and Silicon Valley have certainly given encouragement to young people with business acumen. This year, a national organization known for fostering entrepreneurial skills in school-age students, is offering that encouragement and coaching to Baton Rouge’s future business leaders.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Baton Rouge (YEA BR) recently announced its inaugural class of 26 students representing 14 schools and one home school. Three Episcopal students were selected as a part of the class – Abhay Basireddy, Akshay Basireddy and Charlie Roth. YEA BR Chair and Episcopal parent and alumna Deborah Sternberg ’90 says this is an incredible opportunity for these young people.
The national Young Entrepreneurs Academy was founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester in New York. Since then, the organization has expanded to include more than 100 locations in America and additional sites in India and China. Sternberg says YEA has 9,000 graduates operating 6,000 student-run businesses.
Sternberg, whose son Charlie Roth is a member of this year’s YEA BR class, says the idea to begin such a program locally has an interesting Episcopal connection. When Charlie was in fourth grade here at Episcopal he participated in a shark tank type of event, featuring guest speaker and LSU Innovation Park Executive Director Charles D’Agostino. Sternberg recalls that when D’Agostino asked if the group had any questions her own son raised his hand and simply asked for D’Agostino’s business card. At the time, young Charlie said he had several business ideas to run by the business veteran. This simple act sparked a thought in Sternberg. “Why wait until college to determine a child’s business interest?”
As a sophomore, Charlie Roth is excited to explore his entrepreneurial aspirations and to take advantage of the opportunities the YEA BR program has to offer. When thinking about the opportunity before him his face lights up as he reflects on the reality of starting a business in high school. He says the reality of the experience is what gets him most excited when he thinks about pitching his ideas to real people with real money. And just like his fourth grade self, he still has numerous ideas in mind to start a successful venture.
Charlie’s classmate Akshay Basireddy shares that enthusiasm. Basireddy was one of only three eighth graders accepted into this year’s class. While initially that thought made him nervous, he quickly realized that he was selected for a reason. He says the first day of the class he was able to offer helpful ideas that others had not considered. After being able to make an impact on the first day, he is looking forward to learning from the guest speakers, using the LSU resources and meeting with investors.
Akshay’s brother Abhay Basireddy was also selected for the inaugural YEA BR class. He says he is curious and eager to know more about the aspects of being an entrepreneur. “It is really exciting,” he says. “It brings together a community of people with their own business ideas.” Like Charlie and Akshay, Abhay says he has a few business ideas already in mind.
Here at Episcopal, students with business savvy have a range of opportunities and resources to help them achieve their dreams. Upper School teacher Vincent Hoang teaches two entrepreneurial studies courses in which students learn the principles of business. New this year, students have an opportunity to actually use the theories they learned in the classroom in a NuVu Episcopal Design Studio experience.
“The strength of the course is that they’re learning real life applications of business skills and they can fail without being penalized,” says Hoang. Hoang, who reminds students that WD40 earned its name because the developer tried 39 times before getting it right, says failure is a part of the entrepreneurial process. He says like the business development process, the Episcopal courses are a journey that helps students learn more about themselves as they continue to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will benefit them in all aspects of life.
The Tradition of Entrepreneurship
Episcopal students have a history of success when it comes to business endeavors. Current students can simply look back at the stories of successful alumni as examples of making a dream a reality. Just a few examples of successful Episcopal business men and women, entrepreneurs or graduates who have been in the news recently include:
With the school and community opportunities available to Episcopal students, there is no limit to what students can achieve. Congratulations to this year’s YEA BR participants!