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Knoxville Chamber
Workforce & Education
Young Entrepreneurs Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a year-long program that teaches middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. 

YEA! was developed at the University of Rochester in 2004 with the support of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The Knoxville Chamber proudly established Tennessee's first YEA! program in Knoxville in 2015.

YEA! guides middle to high school-aged students through the process of starting and running a legitimate business or social movement over the course of a full academic year. The national program has graduated more than 4,000 students launch over 3,000 businesses and social movements! YEA! graduates started as students, and left the program as CEOs of their own companies!

2017-18 Application Process

Applications for the 2017-2018 class are now being accepted.  Students will be admitted on a rolling basis until the remaining 24 spots have been filled. Class will being on Oct. 3, for more information contact Megan Wright at mwright@knoxvillechamber.com
Click here for a PDF version of the application.

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 ABC’s “Shark Tank”!)
  • Attend field trips for a behind-the-scenes look at local businesses
  • Obtain funding
  • Legally register their businesses
  • Participate in a Trade Show
  • Actually launch their own businesses or social movements

Why Apply?

This program offers students the chance to:

  • Develop the skills necessary to launch their own business or social movement (hands-on entrepreneurial experience!)
  • Learn about real businesses - why they succeed or fail.
  • Hear from local entrepreneurs.
  • Launch their own business or social movement!
  • Become more confident in their ideas and their abilities.

Organization of Program

YEA! classes will meet October through April, from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesdays. Applications will be accepted from students in grades 6-12.

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.

Student Selection Process

To apply for YEA!, students must:

  • Fill out the YEA! application
  • Complete the essay and the short-answer questions
  • Submit their transcripts
  • Submit a letter of recommendation

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! There is a $165 tuition fee to participate in the program. Full scholarships are available based on need. Fill out a scholarship application here

Get Involved

Share your business wisdom with aspiring young entrepreneurs and help them get started on the path to success! We’re seeking expert professionals to volunteer their time as guest speakers, mentors, investors, graphic designers, field trip hosts, business plan reviewers, and more.

If you are interested in getting involved with YEA!, contact Megan Wright at (865) 246-2658 or email mwright@knoxvillechamber.com.

 YEA Knoxville Chamber



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