Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!)

Helping our students MAKE a job not just TAKE a job!

First Program in Washington state!

Background on the Program

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a year-long afterschool program that teaches local high school students how to start and run their own REAL businesses. YEA! was developed at the University of Rochester in 2004 with the support of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber is excited to be introducing YEA! to the Pierce County community and to hold the first program in Washington State!

Through YEA! high school students are guided through the process of starting and running a legitimate business or social movement over the course of a full academic year. YEA! has graduated almost 600 students over the past 7 years, who have started nearly 450 businesses and social movements. YEA! graduates start as students and leave the program as CEOs of their own companies! Over the course of the program, students:

  • Brainstorm business ideas
  • Write a business plan
  • Interact with business professionals
  • Pitch their business plan to potential investors (think "Shark Tank" meets "The Apprentice")
  • Obtain funding
  • Legally register their businesses
  • Participate in a Trade Show
  • Actually launch their own businesses or social movements

Watch the "Spirit of Entrepreneurship" Video!

How To Apply

To apply for YEA!, students must:

Once the completed application packet is received, students will be asked to come in for an interview. Acceptance in the program is based on all aspects of an application, as well as the personal interview. Prior experience with business is not required!

Scholarships are available; click here to view the application. Educators may also nominate a student for YEA!; click here for the form.

Watch the Student Recruitment Video!

Organization of the Program

YEA! classes will meet November through May, for three hours weekly. Applications will be accepted from students in grades 9-12. There are no classes during regular school holidays and recesses.

Students are taught by an instructor, but are exposed to guest lecturers, successful entrepreneurs and business mentors. The class goes on field trips to a variety of local businesses. Finally, the students participate in three major events throughout the year: the Investor Panel, Trade Show and a formal graduation ceremony.

How Business Professionals Can Get Involved

Through their interactions with business professionals during the year, YEA! students gain some of the most important knowledge and experience they need to succeed. You can also nominate a student(s) to participate in the program. Click here for the Business Leader Student Nomination form.

Local professionals volunteer their time and expertise as guest speakers, mentors, investors, graphic designers, field trip hosts, business plan reviewers, and much more. The time YEA! students spend with adults who encourage their futures is invaluable, and participants often report getting even more out of their participation than they put in to it!

If you are interested in becoming involved with YEA! as a sponsor, guest speaker, fieldtrip host, or volunteer, contact Lynnette Buffington at 253.682.1726 or email Lynnette at

For Information contact Lynnette Buffington at 253.682.1726 or email Lynnette at