Youngstown Business Incubator

YBI Youth Entrepreneurship Program Earns National Honor

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Inc. magazine has named The Youngstown Business Incubator to its highly competitive 2021 Best in Business list in the Youth Entrepreneurship category.

The awards honor companies that have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact.

The list, which can be found in the current issue of Inc. magazine, recognizes small- and medium-size privately held American businesses that have had an outstanding influence on their communities, their industries, the environment, or society.

Tanisha Wheeler, the YBI’s director of women and youth entrepreneurship, said the honor is timely, “as we continue to build the [youth entrepreneurship] program to make an even greater impact on our community.”

She continued, “I’m a firm believer that it truly takes a village to not only raise a child, but to support a child’s dreams.”

Introduced in January, the Youth Entrepreneurship program began with a 15-week cohort, The LaunchPad, in March. The purpose of the program is to establish the fundamentals of student entrepreneurship and provide the city’s young people with the education and resources needed to start their own business.

Students were offered a hands-on learning experience. Programming included general entrepreneurship and building a business model, as well as building their confidence, leadership, teamwork and communications skills.

Out of the 25 students enrolled in the program, 14 have registered their business with the Secretary of State’s office, got their employer identification numbers, and learned about financial literacy and the cost of doing business. Participants are currently working with a local marketing firm for websites and logo designs and preparing branded materials to participate in marketplaces throughout the region.

While YBI is excited to help create a community of young entrepreneurs, it is aware that the vast majority of Valley youth face barriers when it comes to positive life experiences.

In response, YBI is developing The Xperience, a program that will use virtual reality to provide such experiences.

“Exposure breeds expansion and The Xperience will give our students that exposure,” said Stephanie Gilchrest, director of the Minority Business Assistance Center. “The Xperience will transport students outside of their four walls and expose them to different industries, careers and other nations, eliminating the barriers of mobility and financial resources.”

When asked how they started, professionals often bring up student experiences in the workplace, including site visits, job-shadowing, mentoring, apprenticeship and worker-student discussions. This is particularly true with scientific and related fields, which do not seem attainable to young people without an introduction.

“Something from these experiences catches the student’s imagination, which then shapes his/her career arc in a positive direction,” Gilchrist said.

Studies have demonstrated that properly produced virtual reality programming has similar impacts on human consciousness, intellectually and emotionally, as reality itself.

Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc., says, “What began for us during the pandemic as an effort to showcase companies that were helping the community has grown into a recognition of social, environmental, and economic impact. The companies on this year’s list are changemakers with heart – and they’re pouring the best of their business into the people and communities around them.”

Rather than relying on quantitative criteria tied to sales or funding, Inc.’s editors reviewed the companies’ achievements over the past year and noted how they made a positive difference in the world. They then selected honorees in more than 49 different industries – from finance to software to engineering to fashion, and more – and in age-based and revenue-based categories.

The applicant pool was extremely competitive, with around 2,700 entries and an acceptance rate in the low single digits – a huge success for these honors in the list’s second year. Honorees for gold, silver, bronze, and general excellence across industries and categories are featured online HERE.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.