BBB Announces Support for YBI Youth Program

YOUNGSTOWN – Young, creative and the possible business leaders of tomorrow, those participating in the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Youth Entrepreneurship Program will receive the benefit of a $100,000 gift from the Better Business Bureau of Mahoning Valley.

During the annual meeting of accredited businesses this morning, Melissa Ames, BBB president and CEO, announced the organization’s intentions to support the youth program at YBI. Serving students ages 9-18, the YBI Youth Entrepreneurship Program teaches the fundamentals of entrepreneurship in a creative space, teaching them the steps of turning their ideas into a business.

“We’re really excited about our partnership with Youngstown Business Incubator,” Ames said. “This is an opportunity where we’ve been looking for a long time to align ourselves with a program investing in future businesses of the Mahoning Valley.”

Currently, the YBI program works with students from Youngstown and Warren City Schools, expanding their minds on the potential of using technologies like augmented and virtual reality to learn, interact and create new products, said Barbara Ewing, YBI’s chief executive officer.

“We are just now at the cusp of the revolution that will be AR and VR,” Ewing said. “We see this as an avenue to really broaden, at least to a degree, the horizons of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the same opportunities.

Long-term, Ewing would like students to be able to learn programs to teach them how to code using AR and VR and develop products around the technology. With the $100,000 spread out over four years, the YBI program will be able to continue to evolve knowing funding is there.

Ewing says statistically, communities with an economy based around a single type of manufacturing often have fewer people thinking about starting their own businesses.

“This investment is going to help local students have that entrepreneurial mindset,” Ames said, adding it will get students thinking and talking about what they could do now and in the future.

“It’s a significant investment, but we wanted to make sure this is something when we heard about it – as a board, as a staff, we just really understood that our economy continues to evolve and grow,” Ames said. “We have been supported by entrepreneurs and will continue to be supported by entrepreneurs, and these are our future business leaders and accredited businesses.”

The BBB also announced a new and improved version of Scam Tracker and a partnership with Amazon and Capital One, the tool helps the BBB educate people know about potential scams they are seeing and track those committing them.

“It’s a very valuable tool, because we have a lot of people, who think it might be a scam, but they’re not sure,” Ames said. “They are researching and calling the BBB office, but it allows them to have this tool where they can do it themselves, and it allows them to share it.”

Ames said a lot of consumers want to get to the bottom of these scams and help to warn others about what they have experienced. The Scam Tracker tool allows them to do so.

Ames said one of the biggest scams is most prevalent during the holiday season. She calls it the puppy scam, where someone looking for a pet online sends money for the pet and to cover its travel expenses, only to later realize there is no pet.

The BBB Scam Tracker estimates more than $3 million was lost to this scam during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.

The BBB serves Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties .

Besides networking at the annual meeting, the BBB voted on new board of directors members, as well as announced leadership for 2023. Jeffrey Ryznar, CEO of 898 Marketing, will serve as chair, succeeding Jennifer Johnson of Aqua Ohio.

Pictured at top: Jeffrey Ryznar of 898 Marketing, incoming BBB chairman, and Melissa Ames, Better Business Bureau president and CEO.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.