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Academy Prepares Future Entrepreneurs

Sacramento Observer, Feature, Kevan Carter Posted: Aug 04, 2008

What works? is an often used expression especially when academic administrators, teachers, parents and researchers debate the issue of inspiring African American youth.

However, the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Sacramento State University and Sacramento City College have taken a huge leap forward in creating a dynamic entrepreneurship program targeting young African American adults, that worked.

The Youth Entrepreneurs Academy is the brain-child of educator Dr. Eric Gravenberg. The group recently graduated its inaugural class of 2008. In a special ceremony held at Sac State's student union where 13 young entrepreneurs received certificates of completion for their hard work and dedication to the program.

During the first phase of training the youth learned about budgeting, finance, real estate and fundamental finance skills such as banking, investments and mortgages. The training was designed to supplement courses that provide basic business concepts and principals.

The academy went a step further in stressing applications of business in the design of a for profit business venture.

Academy staff met in early January and started writing curriculum that would enable youth to identify a business venture that they all could participate in and then write a business plan that would create the opportunity for them to start their own business.

The staff was mindful to guide the students towards starting a business that they identified one that they would manage.

The process for the youth to determine what kind of business to write was a learning experience for all of us, said Gravenberg during the graduation ceremony. According to academy staffers the business idea came as a result of the lunch menu at one of the sessions.

When a pepperoni pizza was served one of the youth passed on the meal, "I dont eat this kind of food, said Malcolm Odoh, who proudly was presented his certificate during the ceremony.

Odohs comments triggered a dialogue among the students about healthy eating, exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. Somewhere in that dialogue the idea of a fitness website emerged.

In the next session the students came up with a name for their venture. It was going to be a Web site, Fit4Real, that appealed to both youth and parents. Over the course of several weeks the students researched the feasibility of such a website. They conducted marketing research; they compared their idea with existing businesses and found their niche: African American youth between the ages of 18-30 who are concerned about what they eat and how they live.

The next few weeks bought on a lot of creative ideas.

As the youth continued on their mission to write a business plan they learned more about the type of business they were pursuing.

The youth learned about a myriad of health disparities that are in near epidemic proportions in Black communities. They learned about diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. They learned that many of these life-threatening diseases are related to diet.

Having been inspired by the knowledge that nutrition and physical fitness regimens have a direct impact on heath the group intensified its research and writing and by the end of the semester the YEA participants came up with a business plan. The plan had a detailed marketing plan, a management plan and a two year projection of income and expenses.

The website will be launched this fall.

After the graduation ceremony the youth all gathered for a final group photo. Many of the students have been accepted at four-year universities; it would be the last time they would be gathered together. Yet, their idea will live on through their predecessors at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

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