From problems come opportunities

The latest graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction include, from left, Madison Hawkins, Jacob Heer, Mollie Dare, Jeremy Heer, Trevor Heer and Aaron Crews. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
The latest graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction include, from left, Madison Hawkins, Jacob Heer, Mollie Dare, Jeremy Heer, Trevor Heer and Aaron Crews. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The latest group of graduates from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction recognize problems when they see them, along with opportunities to address those problems.

Madison Hawkins, for example, wanted to find a better way to cope with anxiety and developed a kit to help others like herself. After worrying his family’s dog could get hit by a boat while swimming, Jeremy Heer invented a flag and vest to keep dogs safe. Jacob Heer was tired of buying different hats for different sports teams, so he created a hat to accommodate interchangeable logos.

Coordinated by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy turns middle and high school students into the chief executive officers of startup ventures. Over the course of seven months, they come up with new products and services, write business plans, pitch their ideas to investors and develop their brands. By the end of the program, they oversee fully functioning enterprises they can continue to operate.

Volunteers support the program, including local business leaders, guest speakers and others who work with students.

The latest group of eight graduates say they learned a lot not only about starting and operating businesses but also about themselves.

Hawkins says she valued the accomplishment of being able to say she created her own business and persisted through the struggles to get her venture up and running.

Mollie Dare says she discovered she enjoys the autonomy that comes with running her own business. In her case, Dare created a mobile application that runs on iPhone and Android smartphones to monitor their water use.

“I like the freedom to do whatever you want,” she says.

Jacob Heer says he learned about the importance of time management,  networking and asking for help when the need arises.

Other graduates of the latest class of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy included: Aaron Crews, who launched a business selling customizable, fade-resistant stickers; Trevor Heer, who developed a digital spice rack that selects, measures and dispenses spices; Colby Reese, who created a flameless heater that can be used while camping or backpacking; and Nick Silzell, who invented a pillowcase made from bamboo fabric that offers cold and hot sides.

The graduates say they have other aspirations — to become an actress, chemist, doctor, and restaurateur, for example. But they also say they remain interested in operating their own businesses.

Dare says she realizes success requires perseverance, but she’s willing to put in the work. “If you have a dream, you should stick to it.”

Recruitment is underway for the next group of students interested in participating in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction. Applications will be accepted through early August or until 24 slots are filled. For more information, contact Darcy Weir at darcy@gjchamber.og or 263-2916.