A group of local entrepreneurs are partnering with New Roots Charter School to offer a series of free training sessions for students to bring a simple product or business idea to life. The program will offer coaching and funding to students, culminating in an open-air market held at Press Bay Alley on May 20th. Local youth in 4th through 12th grades are invited to the kickoff event on April 8th at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.

The new program is called YEM (Youth Entrepreneurship Market), and its organizers, Michael Mazza and Ethan Ash have been working together over the past few months to pull the educational training and market details together in partnership with New Roots Charter School. YEM offers basic entrepreneurship education in the form of two free trainings with local business owners and coaches including founders of Emmy's Organics, Lively Run Goat Dairy and Firelight Camps. Students will learn the basics of creating a business plan, buying supplies, managing finances, and marketing their product at the market.

A recent grant awarded by the Community Foundation's Lane Family Fund is helping to make the opportunity available to anyone, independent of financial means to buy materials for their business.

The idea came to Mazza after seeing the excitement in his daughters after they launched a summer lemonade stand.

"When they asked me to help them expand their business beyond our driveway, I realized that we had some young entrepreneurs in the making," he said. "Through our research we ran into several challenges that led us to ask the question that sparked YEM. Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a local festival filled with youth-run businesses? We could flip the paradigm of Ithaca's community-focused festival model by empowering youth to be the vendors and adults the consumers. From there, we put an initial plan together, and I reached out to Ethan to collaborate and expand on the idea."

"Mike and I grew up in Ithaca, and returned to the community to raise our own kids, while maintaining work with startup organizations outside the region," said Ash. "We share a common appreciation for entrepreneurship and the values we picked up in our own startup backgrounds. By launching YEM, our hope is that kids in the program will build confidence and practical skills, perhaps even laying a foundation to launch their own organizations in Ithaca someday. We have such a wealth of skilled entrepreneurs right here in Ithaca, and we're excited to connect kids in the community with those inspirational leaders and their stories."