By Stephanie Chan, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
One business question for you: What can you buy for $15? For this investment of $15, you can create a business empire because this down payment is for education in basic business principles. The New England Chinese Information and Networking Association, or NECINA, offers a uniquely structured class for high school and college students. The membership fee to join NECINA is $15, and the YES (Youth Entrepreneurship Services) program is free with membership.
(L to R) Dr. Daryl Luk, Stephanie Chan and her parents (photos by David Li).
In ten classes, taken every other Saturday from the beginning of the school year until about February, students discover how to imagine viable products, study the market space, plan a financial plan, and deal with corporate law. Then students immediately put these concepts into practice by forming groups, “companies”, and writing a business plan. In the beginning part of the competitive part of the class, students critique each others’ ideas and mentors and teachers help students with presentation skills and development of ideas. Additionally, in each of the classes, a current entrepreneur addresses the class and shares his personal experience of starting a business.
After hearing from these numerous sources, students present ideas to judges first in a semi-final round and then in a final round, in which the two winning teams of the semi-final compete directly against each other. Distinguished judges debate the merits of each company in a “non-disclosed location” while the competing teams nervously await the verdict. YES 6.0, the sixth time the class and competition has run, has recently awarded its prizes to first and second place, Connect Books and Vital Communications respectively.
The four judges (front row) and YES 6.0’s final contestants (second row) at IBM Innovation Center in Waltham on March 17, 2012.
As one who has taken the class and competed, this author recognizes that it is not only the unique curriculum but also the people who make up the program that instill and foster a respect for business principles. The concepts are taught by professionals that are experts in the fields they lecture on and who, even more importantly, have more than enough passion to share with the students. As students asked questions, it was never enough for the teacher to give the easy answer. The eagerness to learn was reciprocated as the students asked particular questions and teachers followed up with the students, if necessary, to provide answers.
The administrative group for the program, the YES 6.0 team, led by Daryl Luk, provides constant support for the students from offering advice on business ideas to working classes around SAT tests. And finally, in this unique student group, each team supports its own members and other teams. The competition can be fierce but the time spent waiting for judges to declare the winner can also be a time of mutual understanding and camaraderie. Without a doubt, the YES program allows students to dive into the deep end of business with the sharks.
For YES 6.0, students took classes in the IBM Innovation Center in Waltham. As they learned the basics of business, pupils could see how far innovation and business smarts could get them. IBM’s lengthy and distinguished history of innovation makes it an ideal location for the YES program. Through the glass doors and down the hallway, students can see into the office part of the building and marvel at the many levels of offices and conference areas. This author could imagine the invention and critiquing that we were learning about being implemented to impact history. By teaching students, the YES program shapes the innovators of the next generation and the business people of tomorrow. And all this for $15.
Related reports: Connect Books Won NECINA’s YES 6.0 Business Plan Contest