Written by Austin Koehler, YEA! Alumnus and Owner and Founder of G.O. Nuts (Genuinely Original)
It has been over four years since I first entered the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in the fall of 2016. What a ride it has been! The YEA! was one of my first introductions to the area of Southern California that I would call home for the next three years. But, the program became so much more to me than just an introduction to an area – it really allowed me to live and succeed in and beyond it.
Imagine a high school student moving from one coast to another right before their sophomore year starts, not knowing the area or anyone in it, and a little more free time than should be had – that was me in the August of 2016. So, as a sixteen-year-old want-to-be entrepreneur, when I saw an ad for the YEA! it seemed like just the thing to fill up my time and engage me in the community. A class that not only teaches its students how to start a business, but also gives them the opportunity to operate a fully functioning business of their own creation, gain mentors and a brand designer, AND secure funding for the business at the end of the program? Sign me up!
I joined the program not knowing what to expect. It changed my life. My wonderful teachers, the YEA! staff, Manhattan Beach Chamber members, and other volunteers made it such an engaging experience that has taught me so many lessons I still use today. To give an idea of what the program teaches and supports, they help guide through legal processes, employment, taxes, accounting, marketing, branding, sales, giving a business pitch, and so much more! The YEA! enabled many of my life’s greatest achievements so far. I was able to start my business G.O. Nuts, Genuinely Original Nuts, which sold candied pecans in several flavors all over Los Angeles County, and donate ten percent of profits to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Over three years, I grew my business idea into a successful operation because of the teachings I gained in the YEA!, expanding into three year-round farmers markets, events all over the county, even international client gifting and more. I turned a passion into a real, profitable business, while also giving back to the community by sponsoring the Redondo Union High School Jazz Band (I know, this is a Manhattan Beach article, what’s a Redondo kid doing here? Well, the YEA! in Manhattan Beach accepts applicants from all the surrounding areas so don’t be discouraged from applying if you don’t live in Manhattan Beach!), acting as a mentor to other young entrepreneurs, and especially supporting the JDRF. I am extremely proud of these achievements, and I am equally grateful for the YEA! teachers and mentors who have continued to support me after the program ended.
G.O. Nuts Cone Bags
Due to my business success and donations to the JDRF, I was chosen to be a Bryan Cameron Impact Scholar, which provides a full tuition and expenses paid scholarship to any college or university that the recipient is accepted into. Only fifteen students are chosen to become recipients from across the nation for their achievements in leadership in any field of their choosing. My business also enabled me to receive several other scholarships and get into an amazing college, the Villanova University School of Business. That same education from the YEA! and my business gave me the opportunity to be one of thirteen students from my school to study abroad and complete an internship in Singapore in their second semester. During that same study abroad, my business experience proved me worthy of extending a two-month internship into a five-month, full time internship in a venture capital firm in Singapore. Even now my YEA! education is helping me to operate my second startup company, UndercoverVC, which aims to make for a more equitable distribution of venture capital funding to student entrepreneurs in universities across the USA. Most recently, I have even been navigating incredible internship offers for my upcoming sophomore summer due to these successes, of which many can be traced back to the YEA! My education from the YEA! has given me so much in life. Without it, I may have never started G.O. Nuts and gained all these other opportunities that came along with it.
Never underestimate your own significance just because you are young. You can do incredible things. One of the most important ideas I have taken from the YEA! program is that sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you make for yourself. The YEA! enables students to have the resourcefulness to open up the world for themselves, just as I was able to open my world and achieve my dreams because of the opportunities I was able to make for myself. If you love business and want to see how you would fare in an entrepreneurial setting, I strongly suggest looking into the YEA! program. I cannot emphasize enough how much it changed my life and allowed me to reach my goals. Shoot for the stars, and someday you’ll get there. Stay strong, stay safe, and stay passionate. Thank you for your time.
If you want to speak to me directly for advice with business, college, scholarships, or life in general, I would be more than happy to receive emails at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Austin Koehler, YEA! Alumnus and Owner and Founder of G.O. Nuts (Genuinely Original)