Academy turns students into CEOs

The latest graduating class from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy includes (top row from left): Atiera Kennick, Natasha Sanchez, Joseph Williams, Trenton Stone, Jose Tarin and Nathaniel Doty along with (bottom row from left) Allexus Halladay, Malachi Yeager, Ashleigh Orton and Brayden Kelley. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
The latest graduating class from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy includes (top row from left): Atiera Kennick, Natasha Sanchez, Joseph Williams, Trenton Stone, Jose Tarin and Nathaniel Doty along with (bottom row from left) Allexus Halladay, Malachi Yeager, Ashleigh Orton and Brayden Kelley. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jose Tarin has developed an application that enables students to use their smart phones to take better notes in class.

Allexus Halladay has come up an app that challenges musicians to better perform a piece of music.

Nathaniel Doty has invented a product that protects the cleats on athletic shoes, while Natasha Sanchez sells cookies, candies and other confections.

Count the four among the latest graduates of a program that guides middle and high school students through the process of starting and running a business or social movement.

They’re also the newly minted CEOs of startup enterprises who bring to their roles experience in developing new services and products, completing business plans and pitching investors for funding.

“We’re kids and we can still do that,” said Halladay, an eighth grade student at Bookcliff Middle School.

Coordinated by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy is now in its third year.

In addition to Tarin, Halladay, Doty and Sanchez, the graduating class for the 2015-2016 academic year also includes Brayden Kelley, Atiera Kennick, Ashleigh Orton, Annika Sisac, Trenton Stone, Joseph Williams and Malachi Yeager.

The students said they’ve learned a lot.

“Hard work pays off,” said Yeager, a freshman at Central High School who developed what he’s branded as SlipNot grips for the bottoms of shoes.

Stone, a junior at Fruita Monument High School, said he’s learned how to connect with business professionals even as he’s developed an organization that connects youth to groups that need volunteers and financial support.

And then there’s the challenge of coming up with a good idea for a business to begin with.

Tarin said he was motivated to develop the Snap Notes app to help improve his own note-taking skills.

Halladay said she and a friend often challenge each other to better play a piece of music, and her LiveNotes app enables them to record and upload videos for others to see and vote for what they think is the best performance.

Kelley tells one of the best origin stories of all, though, in recounting how he was pedaling to a fishing spot and the frustration he felt trying to tote a pole and tackle box all the while steering his bike.

The Redlands Middle School student figured there had to be a better way to pack along his fishing gear and ended up inventing one in a canvas pouch that attaches to the fishing pole and includes pockets for lures, weights and other supplies.

Practical Tackle was born and Kelley now hopes to peddle some more in tackling a potentially lucrative market for fishing gear.

Kelley admitted, though, he was surprised by all the steps involved in launching a startup. “It was a lot more complicated than I thought.”

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is now recruiting students for the next class at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The chamber will begin accepting applications in July with a Sept. 15 deadline. Classes will begin in October.

Stone, for one, recommends the course. “It’s an amazing opportunity,” he said. “I learned a lot of things in this that I know I’ll be using in the future.”