AVSC In The AV Press - How Sweet It Was!


We were pleased to receive a mention in the AV Press when they wrote about the wonderful efforts of Sandy Smith with the Lancaster Chamber and the fine creativity and dedication of the recent YEA Graduates.

In addition to the chocolate photo we posted several others on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/antelope.valley.showcase.chorus 


LANCASTER – Kaitlyn Critchfield took a cake decorating class as a way to spend more time with her grandmother.

Now, the Endeavor Middle School student has her own business – Katie May’s Baked Delights.

Critchfield is one of 21 middle school students who spent 30 weeks at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy hosted by the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. The academy taught the students about the process of taking an idea from concept to an actual business – including developing business and financial plans, how to make pitches before investors, and the permitting and licensing process.

The students graduated on Friday.

“It started as something fun to do together with my grandmother. I had no idea it would become a business,” Critchfield said.

Getting her business up and running included securing kitchen certification and a food handling license. Critchfield’s business was up in time for her to sell at the recent flea market held by the chamber.

Her business orders are booked through May.

The Antelope Valley Showcase Chorus recently posted how thrilled they were with Critchfield’s chocolate and Snicker Doodle cupcakes.

“I have a lot of connections through my church. Networking is really big,” Critchfield said.

Her new business is taking up about 40% of her time.

“It was really hard,” Critchfield said of the academy. “I’m really proud of the class as a whole. It was a great opportunity.”

Another business that launched from YEA was A Better Chef, which sells cooking kits with spices, recipes and a history of the food item being prepared. A Better Chef is the brainchild of Soleil Sanchez of Anaverde Hills Middle School.

A third project to emerge from YEA is STREAM Kids Expo, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Rancho Vista Golf Course. The expo is aimed at introducing kids to science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The expo is the project by Niamani Knight of Hillview Middle School.

One student, Cheyenne Adams of SOAR Prep Academy, will be attending a regional YEA competition this weekend in Phoenix. Adams’ project is Forgot-Me-Not-Baby, a proximity alarm on a car seat that goes off when a caregiver gets too far from a child. Her slogan: “Some things are too important to forget.”

Of the 24 kids accepted into the academy, 21 stuck with the program to graduate.

“The thing about this program is that the kids now have what a high percentage of adults who start businesses don’t have – the knowledge of the proper steps to take before launching a business enterprise,” said Sandy Smith, the chamber’s CEO and the program manager for YEA. “So at 12, 13, and 14 years old, these kids know it’s not an easy task to start a business, but they have all the tools necessary. If they want to start a business next year, if they want to start a business after high school they’ve got everything at their fingertips.

These kids have networked with so many important people and now they have these connections that, again, not many adults in our community have.”

In addition to the classroom work, the academy included sessions with business mentors, field trips to local businesses, and panel discussions with some notable business and civic leaders. The students also had to make a pitch at a “Shark Tank” like event to gain funding by potential investors.

During their graduation ceremony on Friday at Antelope Valley College, a major sponsor of the program, each of the YEA students were asked to give a brief summary of what they learned. Many spoke on the difficulties of starting a business and they need to have grit, the ability to stick with a project:

“You have to persevere and try hard to get what you want,” said Stephen Dusablon, a student at Hillview Middle School.

Some spoke about how the program helped them talk with people.

“You have to be confident,” said Isabella Paguyo, a SOAR Prep Academy student. “You don’t want to be like a statue.”

Some spoke of their overall feelings about the program, including Hillview Middle School student Shruthi Kumar who said “this program really nurtured the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us,” and Giovanni Pope of Amargosa Middle School, who said “you will get run down if you don’t get down to business.”

The chamber wants to continue the program, but with a few tweaks. One issue is to find a way to lighten the load on Smith, who served as the chief staff person on the program while also performing her duties as chamber CEO.

“It was very successful,” said Josh Mann, the chamber’s 2015-2016 board chairman. “I’m proud of what we accomplished. People are already interested in next year’s program.”

The businesses in the program and their creators are:

  • Slip Case, a smartphone case to hold house keys, driver’s license, etc., by Isabella Paguyo and Shruthi Kumar.
  • EXO Shoes, athletic shoes with changeable soles, by Jackson Bennett, Marquise Hines, Kaelin Smith and Jayan Patel.
  • STREAM, an expo to introduce students to science, technology, engineering, arts and math, by Niamani Knight.
  • Forget-Me-Not Baby, a baby seat that activates an alarm when a distracted or forgetful parent leaves the car without bringing baby along, by Cheyenne Adams.
  • Elegancy, a smartphone case with a makeup compact, by Karina Patel, Mykayla Johnson and Raquel Pinedo.
  • A Better Chef, a cooking kit with spices, recipes and a history of the food item being prepared, by Soleil Sanchez.
  • AquaComb, a comb that also squirts water or a gel, by Stephen Dusablon and Nikil Sunku.
  • Sapron, an apron designed to keep kids from getting burned, by Destiny Brooks.
  • GNN, a media enterprise aimed at kids, by Giovanni Pope.
  • HikerFit, a backpack with a chair, by Samuel Bevers, Art Hernandez, Marcus Bohler and Daniel Corbin.
  • Katie May’s Baked Delights, a custom cake and cupcake business, by Kaitlyn Critchfield.

YEA was developed at the University of Rochester in 2004 with the support of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The program can now be found in communities nationwide.

As of 2014, the program has graduated 2,298 students who have started more than 1,700 businesses and social movements.

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