Business & Finance

Kids Launch Businesses in Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s YEA! Program

Kids in the GWACC's YEA! program present their businesses to an investor panel.

WESTFIELD, NJ — We’ve all heard of internships, but what about “Inteenships”?

Developed by Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) participants Benjamin Friedman, Evan Garfinkle and Matthew Carminio, is a website where students can create their own profile as they would on Facebook, but with resumes and job qualifications for businesses looking for interns. Inteenships caters to teens and young adults ages 14-21.

 “We want help teenagers. We know how hard it is to get a job. We know how hard it is to get experience,” said Friedman.

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The website is one of many real businesses created by the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s YEA! participants.

Created in 2004, YEA! is a program that not only teaches students about entrepreneurship but takes them through the process of actually developing and launching their ideas with the help of mentors from the community.

As a member and former chairman of the GWACC, attorney Mitch Beinhaker leads New Jersey’s first and only YEA! program, which is comprised of students from Mountainside, Garwood, Fanwood, Scotch Plains and Westfield working with local business owners. An email from the group in Rochester first intrigued him, he said.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart, but I’m an attorney. I’m a business attorney.” said Beinhaker

Now in its first year in New Jersey, the YEA! program lasts 30 weeks, during which the students undertake a series of exercises each week. For the first 10 weeks, they discussed ideas about what each student liked to do and if it was a good idea. Ideas ranged from selling survival kits for Boy Scouts to a bib that plays soothing music to origami boxes.

Next, they were given templates to begin refining their ideas. The students were then assigned local business people as mentors to help create business plans, research the financial aspects of their business, create Power Point presentations and present them to investors.

During the final 10 weeks of the program, the students launch their businesses. They are given financial templates, the mentors help them set up their limited liability company filings (LLCs) and they are taken to a bank to set up accounts.

This year’s mentors are Mario Cesario, who owns a karate training facility; Paul Hahn and Susan Pastuzyn, who are computer technicians; Gene Jannotti, a retired executive; and Michelle Dickenson, current executive of J and J Pharmaceuticals.

After the 30 weeks, the students presented their ideas to an investor panel.

“The investor panel is like a mini Shark Tank.” said Beinhaker.

Panel members were Jack Killion of The Eaglerock Fund, Eric Polsuk of Product Club, Chris Devine of Wells Fargo Advisors, Keith Sheara of Investors Savings, Ray Ambrosino of Garden State Securities, Joe Masterson of Nichols Advisory, Tony Shurman of Post Foods, Mitch Harris of Experts of H.O.M.E., Vikal Kapoor of The XV Group, Howard Schram of StepItUpEvents, Harold Star of VendorScope and Rob Eisman of Ambac.

Eli Wirtschafter of Westfield was given the award for “Best Business” for his Leaf Reliever this year. (To read our story about that, click here.) Wirtschafter will moves on to the regional competition in Rochester, NY, this month. The two winners from there will head to Washington, D.C., for the national competition. Last year’s winner was 13-year-old Conner Christian from Texas, who invented the Rubber Boot Buddy.

Beinhaker said he believes the most important thing the students learned from this experience is that business is not just about buying and then selling things for more, but that there are challenges and costs involved.

“If you know how to write a business plan, get the financial stuff together and make a presentation to people that’s convincing, that’s the most important thing they learned,” said Beinhaker.

Friedman said he learned through the program that building a business is not easy.

“YEA! has really figured out a way to structure the process of building a business to give us tools and templates that are going to help us create the business possible,” said Friedman. Even if his business doesn’t succeed, he said he still has the awesome feeling of building a business.

The program is currently looking for applicants and volunteers. If interested, you can attend an upcoming presentation or recruitment meeting at the chamber of commerce. Email or call 908-233-3021 for more details.

The reporter wrote this story as part of a journalism partnership with Kean University.

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