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Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to inspire next generation of job creators

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kian Haddad, who works in his family's AVA Roasteria business, hopes to one day start his own company. He plans to get a head start as a member of the state's first Young Entrepreneurs Academy recently launched by the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce. Kian Haddad may have the next big million-dollar business idea.

The Southridge High School junior will get the chance to explore and develop his business acumen if he is accepted as one of the first 24 students in Beaverton’s new Young Entrepreneur Academy.

“When I heard about this opportunity, I jumped on it,” the 17-year-old said. “I plan to turn in my application within the next couple weeks.”

The Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce recently opened the application process for Oregon’s first Young Entrepreneur Academy, which is called YEA! In the next year, more than 70 local businesses are expected to sign on to partner with the chamber, Beaverton School District and Portland Community College in a variety of ways to establish this after-school program at Beaverton High School in November.

“YEA! is designed to inspire middle and high school students in Beaverton to become successful contributors to the local community and economy, by bringing their innovative business ideas to life,” said Lorraine Clarno, president and CEO of the chamber.

The program was developed at the University of Rochester in 2004, and chamber leaders are excited to introduce YEA! to the Beaverton community, she added.

As part of the academy, Beaverton-area students will attend an after-school class on Tuesdays. Over the course of a year, YEA! students hear from guest speakers, attend seminars, gain mentors and tour businesses in Beaverton to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to operate a legal, full-fledged business.

Investors and business mentors within Beaverton will also work to support the young entrepreneurs in their quest to successfully create and run their own businesses.

“YEA! provides students with an invaluable opportunity to gain professional experience unattainable in a classroom, and benefits the community by allowing established businesses to collaborate in support of a growing economy in Beaverton,” Clarno said. “As the first (academy in the state), our hope is that YEA! will be replicated in every community in Oregon that has a chamber of commerce in five to 10 years.

“The program builds roots — these students will complete the program, run their business, finish school, go on to higher education on a track of their choosing, and in all likelihood return to the community.”

After all, she said, this is where they will have grown a network of business support.

Raw ideas

That is exactly what Haddad has set his sights on.

Haddad is the youngest son of Amy Saberiyan, owner of AVA Roasteria in downtown Beaverton and Progress Ridge as well as AVA Roasteria Conference and Catering Center.

“I have some ideas that haven’t been brought to life — they are very raw,” Haddad said. “Many I have brainstormed are involved with AVA.

“AVA is a great business I hope to work with in the future. I also have some ideas of what I want to do on my own.”

Watching his mother’s success over the years has inspired an entrepreneurial spirit in Haddad, who can’t remember a time he wasn’t interested in business. “Maybe it was passed down through genes from my parents,” Haddad said.

In any case, he is intrigued by what YEA! offers to students.

“This gives us an opportunity to do something other kids don’t get in the classroom,” he said. “It opens a door for you to gain experience within the community and with business people.

“It gives us a head start to be the entrepreneurs we want to be and will help propel us to be successful. I absolutely can’t wait to meet all the other kids, especially if they’re as interested in business as I am.”

But first, Haddad and other students — who can come from public, private and home-school programs in the Beaverton area — must first complete an application that includes answering a series of questions, writing an essay, obtaining a transcript and letter of recommendation and paying an application fee. Applicants will then go through an interview process.

It’s all part of gaining that business experience, said Evelyn Orr, the chamber’s YEA! program manager. “We want these kids to be invested.”

Spreading the word

While the academy will eventually open enrollment to students in middle school, this first year the chamber plans to focus on incoming freshman to high school seniors.

“I have been surprised by the response we have had from younger students and even some kids who have already graduated,” Orr said of the emails and calls she has received from interested applicants. “We want students to know that they don’t need to have a business class or focus. If they are in the arts, enjoy creating and have a unique creation they are wondering how to market, this program could be an ideal fit for them.

“They don’t have to have a business mind — everyone is welcome. I am so excited to see what these kids come up with. I’m sure our business partners will be inspired by this next generation.”

Orr said several business leaders have already expressed an interest in supporting YEA! in Beaverton, including three possible instructors.

“There are so many ways businesses can be involved,” she said.

Local professionals can volunteer their time and expertise as guest speakers, mentors, investors, graphic designers, field trip hosts, business plan reviewers and more.

If your business is interested in getting involved, contact Evelyn Orr at 503-350-2004 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Do you have the next big idea?

Students entering ninth through 12th grades in the fall are invited to apply for the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce’s new Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

Applications are available online at or by contacting YEA! Program Manager Evelyn Orr at 503-350-2004 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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