Yescarolina hosts third annual fundraiser
The grand total: $200,000. That’s how much YEScarolina raised in one night during its third annual gala last Thursday.
YEScarolina is a nonprofit organization that aims to teach youths across the state entrepreneurship skills.
“We’re giving back to the kids that want to do something with themselves. This gives them an outlet and something to achieve for,” board member Austin Stone said about the gala, “Under the Tuscan Stars,” which was held at Memminger Auditorium. Local businesses were donors for the live and silent auction, and dinner was directed by Bill Hall of Halls Chophouse.
“We realized there aren’t enough jobs to go around. It’s important to teach entrepreneurship at an early age so they have something to fall back on,” said Jimmy Bailey, founder and executive director of YEScarolina.
Bailey said the addition of the Motley Rice Charleston County Business Plan Competition and the Mark Motley Foundation Statewide Business Plan Competition were highlights of the year.
“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 Nuttall, a senior at Wando High School, told The Post and Courier in September.
“It reinforces what the kids are asking for,” Bailey added.
Bailey said they will expand to more after-school programs like the one recently started at Charleston Collegiate School on Johns Island to provide business training for students and adults in the Sea Island community. He said this allows them to reach more people.
Many students can attest that the organization does more than teach them how to be entrepreneurs. They said it has made them better communicators, public speakers and given them confidence.
Leah Willis, the mother of Wando High School senior Erin Willis, who was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year at the gala, said she has seen her daughter grow as a person because of YEScarolina.
“It has matured her. She understands what it takes to run a business and she understands the value of money,” she said about Erin’s eBay business.
Justin Vanbogart, the mentor of James Island Charter High School senior Adam Zerbst, said he has seen significant changes in Adam, who started Adam’s All Natural, a healthy trail mix business.
“This has been one of the best experiences of my life. It’s changed his life. ... I hope this becomes a lifelong relationship. He has really inspired me,” Vanbogart said.
Adam, along with Nick Sisk, a junior at James Island Charter High School who started a T-shirt company, went to the national Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship business plan competition last month. They both placed in the top 12.
“Nationals was fantastic! I learned that perseverance is a commonality between most young entrepreneurs,” Adam said.
Adam also was awarded a scholarship by YEScarolina’s board of directors that night to pay for his first year of college.
Adam, Nick, and Erin were chosen as top students for 2012.
Wallace Moore, a junior at Creek Bridge High School in Marion who started a computer repair service, was another top student of the year.
“Jimmy Bailey taught me that you can only do as much as you put forth. He gave me the insight to want more and do more,” he said.
Sable Bowler, a senior from Dutch Fork High School in Columbia is a top student, too. “If you have an idea and you’re passionate about it, you can make it,” she advised.
Sable said she started her shoe company for women with larger feet because she always struggled with finding shoes that fit her.
Zoe Damacela, a young fashion designer who gained national acclaim with her success story, debuted her spring 2013 collection during the gala.
Zoe got her start with a similar organization and competed in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship business plan competition in 2009. Zoe said her show was inspired by romance and Charleston. All of the models for her show were Wando students.
Shawn and Meg Crowley said they came to the gala to watch their daughter, Sarah, a sophomore at Wando, in the fashion show.
“It’s her dream to be in fashion,” they said.
The organization also gave those at the gala an opportunity to provide capital for students starting their businesses. The “Seed Money Initiative” raised $35,000 of the $200,000 total that night.
“This is more important than that yacht,” Adam told the audience about the previous auction item of a yacht vacation. He said it took him only $200 to start his business.
Overall, Bailey said it was a successful year and the thing he has enjoyed most was seeing the students grow.
“They become different people. No other subject matter can do that,” Bailey said.