Doing What MATTERS for Small Business

Young Entrepreneurs Develop and Present in Business Plan Competition

Carolynne Gamble,YEP Advisor

College Division first place winner, Cinthya Cisneros with brother, Juan Ezequiel Cisneros and father, Ezequiel Cisneros.

Leave it to a young entrepreneur to build a business around magic!  Thomas Alas from Vintage High School won first place and $1,000 cash prize with his business, Magic Man Entertainment. In twelve fast minutes he managed to cover the business basics plus work in a few tricks to wow the judges. He delivered his plan with great flair at the 10th Annual Youth Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition held April 7 at Napa Valley College (NVC). 

And one by one, our talented youth took the stage. Six high school teams and five college teams competed. Initially, over 300 students received entrepreneurial training from Small Business Development Center Advisors in the classroom. One hundred fifty (150) high school and college students submitted written business plans for evaluation and 30 students were finalists in the oral competition to present business plans. It was a highly competitive, multi-layered challenge.  Supportive parents, teachers, family and friends attended, and a common theme unfolded - businesses with a purpose for the greater good.

College Division Students: What did they learn?

“My parents came to this country with just a backpack and some clothes, nothing else,” reported Cinthya Cisneros, first place winner in the college division who presented her dream bakery business, La Cheve.  “This competition allowed our vision for La Cheve to become clear, and for that I thank you.”

“Presenting a PowerPoint was extremely nerve racking, but the process helped me practice my communication skills and taught me how to pitch a business to a group of people, investors, and the community,” said Samantha Wachowski, NVC student and second place winner with her teammate, Richie Vedar presenting their business, Lifestyle Fitness.

NVC student, Megan Perez appreciates being pulled out of her comfort zone because she knows it will help her with public speaking in the future. “This project has taught me there is much more planning involved in a business than I thought. When I open a business in the future, I will know to cover all of these aspects to ensure success!”   Megan plans to use her prize money to further her education and become a successful businesswoman.

College Teacher’s Perspective

“It was so gratifying to see my students work so diligently on their business plans and presentations,” reports NVC business instructor, Bob Derbin. “Their passion is inspiring, and I am sure that we are going to see great things from these young entrepreneurs in the future.”

St. Helena High School student, Catherine Morse, thought the whole thing was stressful, but in the end, it was worth the learning experience.  She learned how to talk in front of a crowd. “I was very nervous, but by the end of it I warmed up. I didn’t do this for the money. I did it for the experience and it was a great one!”

High School Teacher’s Perspective

“The YEP program forces the students to see beyond their time in high school and understand how much work goes into building a business,” said Sarah Geoff, Culinary and Hospitality instructor at St. Helena High School. “Even if the student has no interest in becoming an entrepreneur, this exercise is relevant because they make better employees when they understand the whole picture.”

Parent’s Perspective

“The change we saw in our son, once his ideas were put to paper, was amazing,” reported Victor and Stacey Alas, parents of Tomas Alas, first place winner in the High School Division. “He learned more about his business by reviewing the data, expenses, sales and trends.”

“A huge part of my job is to connect our community,” said Charlie Monahan, Interim Director of Economic and Workforce Development.  “Everywhere we have infused the entrepreneurship experience into high school and college classes, I have seen students have an authentic experience that has tremendous meaning.”

“Students gain transferable skills such as project management, planning, research, communication skills as well as public speaking and team building,” he added.  “They obtain work skills such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software as well as customer service andinteracting with business owners.”

"The student’s creativity gave me so much hope for the future," concludes Molly Stuart, YEP Program Manager, Napa Valley College. “With support from businesses such as Petaluma Poultry and lenders like Opportunity Fund, and Small Business Development Centers, these students reach beyond the traditional classroom to develop innovative products and business ideas.”

For information about putting on a Youth Entrepreneurship Program – Business Plan Competition in your area, visit or the website at, or call your Business and Entrepreneurship DSN!

Read the article featured in the Napa Valley Register here.

Small Business Training and Development
Educators: Industry-Specific Curriculum Development
Students: Education & Career Pathways
Try Our Map Tool