#YEP! An Urban Youth Program

Dream, Believe, Create and Achieve

We believe the way to catalyze change is to catalyze hope by sparking opportunity for our youth, and then training those who seize those opportunities to not GO but instead to return back to their communities and be the change in that community. We want to see them come home and multiply hope and opportunity. The Youth Entrepreneurs Program, known as #YEP!, is designed to re-ignite the spark of  Dreaming, to Believe in themselves,  to Create new opportunities for themselves and their community and to Achieve what they never thought possible.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonides

LLH, local entrepreneurs and business leaders, and the leadership at ProjectGRAD Knoxville (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) first envisioned this idea as a pseudo “Urban Sharktank” after the popular reality TV series “Sharktank”. This original “vision” has transformed into an entire program and curriculum for creating opportunity for urban youth through the two pillars of facilitated learning and building transformative relationships with leaders in our community. The program will culminate with a business plan pitch program where three (3) teams or individuals will win startup funding ($10K, $5K and $2500) and a years worth of direct mentoring from a team of mentors.

Current #YEP! is focused on rising Juniors and Seniors at the urban schools of Fulton and Austin-East High Schools. The program will be broken into four (4) phases throughout the school year and into the following year. These will be:

  • The Dreaming Sessions: During these sessions local leaders will spend time in a variety of sessions over a couple of weeks sharing their stories of startup, failure, success, pressure, highs and lows, dreams and realities in an effort to spur the dreaming and believing in our urban youth. The stories they will hear in these sessions will help to set the stage for them to dream and believe in themselves, and to begin to formulate what ideas they may want to pursue for the development of their business idea.
  • The Educational Sessions: During these sessions held during the school day local business owners and leaders will facilitate sessions on the specific disciplines for the program such as sales, marketing, legal, finance, etc. These sessions will be topical and focus on high-level concepts in each discipline. The primary focus of these sessions is not only education, but the relationship building and connections made between the students and the facilitators.
  • The Business Plan Pitch: During this phase the individuals, or teams, will begin the process of developing their business plan and pitches culminating with the actual pitch to the panel of entrepreneurs and leaders. The pitch will consist of an initial round of pitches, narrowing the filed down to 3 – 5 finalists. These finalists will then have 48 hours to “polish” their pitches for the final “pitch” where the winders will be announced.
  • The On-Going Mentoring: From the pitch “winners” Senior Mentors will be assigned to the top five (5) teams to assist them in the startup and development of their ideas. These Senior Mentors will be responsible for facilitating access to other “vertical discipline mentors” from each specific field. This is the long term core of the program, the transformative relationships developed between our urban youth and the variety of leaders and entrepreneurs in our community.

It is our belief that this program will transform our community through the power of relationships. Our youth will have access to men and women in the business community who will see and understand firsthand, the value that each one brings through who they are, the skills they have and the immense potential that is locked inside them. The power of leadership is the unlocking of human potential, and we believe that this program has, more than any other, the potential to transform our community culturally, socially and racially.

Dream – Believe – Create – Achieve