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Young entrepreneurs compete for $1K

SAN MARCOS — High school and college entrepreneurs put their business ideas to the test in the Small Business Development Center Young Entrepreneurs Project competition on Dec. 11.
The contest culminates a semester of Young Entrepreneurs Project, or YEP, instruction for area high school and MiraCosta College students and rewards top teams with $1,000.
YEP teaches students how to develop and run a business. Teams give their business ideas all the attention given to developing genuine companies. “We needed to present a mission statement, business objective, marketing plan and financial statement,” Kyle Wininger, Murrieta Valley High School student, said.
High school students who enroll in YEP classes learn how to build an online virtual business. In addition to classroom instruction, community business partners coach students on their business ideas. Hundreds of students participate in YEP. The top five San Diego and Riverside County high school teams were invited to present their business ideas at the competition and received cash prizes, starting at $200 for fifth place up to $1,000 for the top first place idea.
The winning team from Murrieta High School developed Retrospecs, a retail sunglasses business. The team decided to sell a mix of retro and contemporary sunglasses after students researched their peers and found that vintage Ray-band wayfarer and oversize 1960s sunglasses are as popular as contemporary sunglass styles. “We tailored our company to what they wanted,” Holly Koval, Murrieta Valley High School student and team vice president of marketing, said.
The top college idea to take the $1,000 prize was Acute, a mental fitness “gym” that utilizes brain building puzzles and games to sharpen thinking skills of young adults. While the business idea is fully developed, Acute team members said they might not pursue starting the “risky” business venture.
To get ready for competition college students participate in biweekly YEP meetings. The college program brings in community business experts to lecture and meet with students for one-on-one business advice. Initially the YEP meetings targeted 14 to 27 year olds who were interested in starting a business, Nina Lovejoy, MiraCosta College marketing and YEP instructor, said. Now students older than 27 have also joined the group. “They get plugged in to real skills,” Lovejoy said.
Lynda Lee, MiraCosta College dean of community services and business development, congratulated students for participating. Lee encouraged students to keep pursuing their business goals despite the present tough economic times. She said there are a lot of community resources to help. “YEP gives business students an early foot in the door,” Lee said.
See video from the event at