Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology is the host for the ninth annual Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Saunders College Competition on Friday, May 5. The event is expected to draw more than 700 participating students, family members, judges and spectators from across the country as students compete for the opportunity to advance to the finals.
Young Entrepreneurs Academy offers yearlong educational classes for entrepreneurial-engaged high school students (ages 11 to 18)—and 92 semifinalists representing 35 states will be at RIT to present their business plans to a panel of judges.
Students from the Western division will pitch their ideas from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Eastern division from 2:30 to 5 p.m.; and the finals round “Rapid Fire Pitch” will be held at 6:45 p.m. All events are located at the RIT Student Alumni Union (Ingle Auditorium, Bamboo Room and Al Davis Room, respectively).
Local Rochester semifinalist Alyssa Sanchez, a 15-year-old sophomore at Rochester North Star Christian Academy, will pitch “Hapi Paws” at 2:30 p.m.
Serving as judges are local business leaders from Wegmans Food Markets, Parkleigh, Jay Advertising Inc., Genesee Regional Bank, Emerge, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Xerox, Harris Beach PLLC and Merrill Lynch, along with representatives from national companies including Southwest Airlines, Sam’s Club and Lord & Taylor.
The first-place winner will receive a $30,000 scholarship, an all-expense paid trip to America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., and mentorship from E. Philip Saunders—local entrepreneur, philanthropist and namesake of the national competition. The winner of second place will receive a $24,000 scholarship and third place will receive $20,000.
The community-minded Saunders said, “Philanthropy is part of a social investment and one of my passions is to see young people succeed.” Saunders, who is known for transforming the truck stop industry to TravelCenters of America Inc., has diversified interests in energy, auto and truck rental, recreation and tourism, packaged foods, property management, banking and business ventures. His generous gift to RIT boosted the visionary plans of the business school that now bears his name.