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Young entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to potential investors at upcoming panel

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A dozen students in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy are pitching business ideas to potential investors at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus on April 16.Lots of younger, digitally savvy people have volunteered their time to show parents and grandparents the finer — and often less than finer — points of using electronic media, whether it be emailing, Facebook or digital video technology such as Skype.

Where others see as a generation gap-bridging gesture or perhaps a frustrating, if necessary nuisance, Kristine Taylor sees opportunity.

My Heavenly Helpers, the Southridge High School sophomore’s fledgling business, is designed to help seniors citizens use technology to keep in touch with friends and loved ones far away. The services range from help with video calls, email and social media navigation to assistance with typing and handwritten letters for those with arthritis.

“It sends a helper to a senior citizen’s home for about two hours, who teaches them how to contact a loved one,” Taylor says. “We can also help them connect by writing their life stories down, documenting that and sharing it with whoever they like.”

The 15-year-old’s freshly hatched enterprise is one of several innovative ideas participants in the Beaverton Young Entrepreneurs Academy hope to see financed and launched into a viable business. Beaverton School District students participating in the program, sponsored by the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, will present their ideas to a panel of local investors on Wednesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. in Building 9 at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus.

Somewhat in the manner of “Shark Tank,” the popular reality series on ABC-TV, academy students will compete for financing opportunities for their business plans as well as a trip to the academy’s Western Regional Competition in Frisco, Texas, on May 8 and 9. One business winner from Beaverton will advance to the regional event, the gateway to the national competition in Washington, D.C.

“When all the students have presented, investors will go to some private room to huddle,” said Paul Cohen, one of the two instructors with the Beaverton academy, of the panel at PCC. “They’ll budget how much they have (to invest) and give out money as they see fit. It could be zero up to as much as students ask for.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jacob Faulk, above, practices his business proposal, 'Bring the Heat Designs,' with business mentor Dean Buse and Evelyn Orr, Young Entrepreneurs Academy program manager, on Tuesday afternoon at Beaverton High School. Faulk is one of 12 students pitching business ideas to potential investors at PCC Rock Creek on April 16.

A natural fit

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy serves thousands of students across the U.S. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce and Campaign for Free Enterprise became national sponsors and partners in an effort to help “celebrate the spirit of enterprise among youth and tomorrow’s future leaders,” according to YEA’s promotional literature.

Evelyn Orr, the Beaverton chamber’s operations director and the local academy’s program manager, notes YEA is a natural program for the chamber to embrace.

“The Beaverton chamber thought it was a perfect fit with our vision, particularly when it comes to education,” she says. “It really fits that vision and our goals, so we decided we were going to do this. It’s the first one in Oregon. We hope to be a good role model for others.”

The 12 students in the program — from Beaverton district middle and high schools — will present eight business proposals to a panel of six locally based business leaders, consultants and advisers including Phil Bride, Char Shinn, Dean Buse, Danielle Briggs, Phyllis Peabody and Tracey Ullom.

Student proposals range from Matthew Liu’s Cascadian Bakery featuring speciality breads, to Speak! And Be Heard, a speech-based smartphone app developed by Snigda Kanadibhotla.

“The mentors have been amazing with these students,” Orr observes. “There are going to be frustrations and challenges with things that are new to everyone. They’re there to help students get through some of these hurdles.”

Smell the coffee

Participating students are required to be in class for three hours a week. For the more ambitious participants, however, most heavy lifting takes place outside the classroom during evenings and weekends.

Beaverton High School junior Amelia Monfared, who came up with her Latte Schmatte coffee enterprise after a jewelry-based concept fell through, has been hard at work since November, honing her concept and nailing down “financials.”

“I had to come up with recipes, which took a lot of testing and a lot of work,” she says. “One of the most stressful pieces was fixing my business plan. My numbers were a little high, and I had to move things around. The financial summary, where you see how much money the business makes, is probably the hardest part for me.”

Monfared, a coffee enthusiast who serves as president of the Beaverton High School Cooking Club, drew inspiration from family members to develop her line of latte and mocha flavors: butter pecan, mint chocolate chip and raspberry mocha.

“My goal was affordable beverages — lattes and mochas you generally would not find anywhere else,” she says, noting she’ll be selling them at Beaverton Bakery on Southwest Broadway Street this summer. “My junior year has been one of my hardest years. You need something to get you going, and I don’t like coffee sold in other places.”

Electronic tutorials

Taylor found inspiration for My Heavenly Helpers from her piano teacher, who wanted to become comfortable with technological ways to interact with her grandchildren in Germany and Japan.

“So I thought it would be great to create a business to make it possible for her to contact her grandchildren on a regular basis,” Taylor says.

The business would send out an assistant armed with a tablet or laptop computer and walk seniors through the processes of various electronic communications platforms.

“Skype, Facebook, Twitter, even Facetime or just emailing,” Taylor mentions as common examples. “Whatever their (younger) loved one uses most and whatever we need to do in order to help senior citizens stay in contact. A lot of that would focus on things they can do on a tablet, but we can also help with writing letters.”

As YEA students wrap up their final practice sessions with mock investor panels, Cohen is confident those who put the most time, diligence and scrutiny into their proposals will reap rewards on Wednesday — and well beyond.

“I am really hard,” he admits. “I don’t treat anybody different than I would if they were an adult. I treat them as if they were people coming to me for money.

“I think it helps these kids in the long run,” he adds, then chuckles. “I wish I’d taken this class.”

Businesses of tomorrow

What: Beaverton Young Entrepreneurs Academy Investor Panel Presentation

Where: Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus, Building 9, 17705 N.W. Springville Road, Portland

When: Meet and greet, 6:30 p.m.; presentations 6:30 to 8 p.m.

RSVP: Evelyn Orr, Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce operations manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-350-2004

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