When Wando High School senior Erin Willis won $1,000 at the Motley Rice Charleston County Business Plan Competition in May, she invested the money into her business.
Erin started eBay Queen last year after taking an entrepreneurship class at school.
Erin’s business buys low-priced items on eBay and sells them back to eBay or consignment shops. She said that when she devotes at least 20 hours a week, she can make $500 to $1,000 a month.
She, along with Nick Sisk and Austin Nuttall, learned the importance of financial responsibility in an entrepreneurship class taught by Misty Rohaly, a teacher who received training from YEScarolina.
YEScarolina is a nonprofit organization that aims to teach youths business skills.
“Mrs. Rohaly and YEScarolina have helped me go from just a business idea to a full-fledged business,” Nick said.
Nick, a junior who just transferred from Wando to James Island Charter High School, won first place and $3,000 at the Mark Motley Foundation Statewide Business Plan Competition. His business, BlackstacksGear.com, sells and designs T-shirts. He, too, put the money he won back into his business.
Because Nick placed in the top two statewide, he and second-place winner Adam Zerbst of James Island will travel to New York in October for the nationals and a chance to win $30,000.
Both students are provided with mentors who are local business owners. Nick’s mentors are Michelle Mills of YEScarolina, Danny Einhorn of Affordabike and Trae North of West Ashley Urgent Care.
Nick said he is preparing for nationals by practicing his presentation several times a day and meeting weekly with his mentors.
Adam’s business, Adam’s All Naturals, is a healthy snack line. He is working on getting regulations passed so he can expand to the Charleston Farmer’s Market.
Adam said he’s ready to go to nationals, but admitted he has some work to do on his presentation.
“He’s there to help me work on my presentation and overcoming my stage fright and speaking problems,” Adam said about his mentor, Justin van Bogart, co-founder of Mediafedia, a social media management company for large corporations.
Austin, a senior at Wando, created a business plan for a school smoothie shop called Smoochies. He placed third in the county competition and said that YEScarolina helps motivate students not only by teaching them the skills they need, but also providing motivation by hosting competitions.
“The competitions help students work harder because they know there is a prize at the end. Without that, it would just be another boring school project,” Austin said.
“Because of the seed money I won through YEScarolina’s competition, I have been able to invest in equipment that has aided me in sales,” Nick said.
Erin said the most important skills she learned were the importance of networking and marketing. Austin said the most important skill he learned in entrepreneurship class was creativity.
“You can make anything work as long as you put effort into it to make it work,” Austin said.
Austin said he learned personal skills from the class also. He said he was always a shy person, but the positive feedback he received from the judges during competitions made him more confident.
Austin will begin applying to colleges this fall. He said he liked entrepreneurship class so much he decided to take more business classes at Wando and change his career path from engineering to business.
Erin also will be applying to colleges this fall and plans to study business.
While Austin’s business project was just a plan, he said he would consider implementing a similar business in the future.
“Even when it gets tough, just keep working at it because it’s your business. You can make it into whatever you want,” Austin advises future young business owners.
Erin had similar advice. “Keep going because it’s a struggle at first. It takes time to build up a reputation.”
“Never be afraid of the unknown! If you think you can accomplish the business, then you probably actually can,” Nick said.
YEScarolina plans on expanding its reach by partnering with Charleston Collegiate School on Johns Island to provide business training for students and adults in the Sea Island community. They are also getting ready for their annual fundraiser on Nov. 1.
Go to yescarolina.com.