Doing What MATTERS for Small Business

Success Story: Connor Days Photography, Youth Entrepreneurship Program Business Plan Competition

Connor Days Photography

"The Youth Entrepreneurship Program, hosted by Napa Valley College and supported by the Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s Office, continues to impress and inspire all involved,” said Jake Fazio, VP Sales, Coleman Natural Foods/Petaluma Poultry and judge for the competition. “It not only supports local economics, but backs innovative Can Do career paths. These students have options, whether it’s trade, small business or four-year college. This generation is non-conventional and has new models to add economic value,” adds Fazio.

The Business and Entrepreneurship Deputy Sector Navigator for the North Bay Region, Molly Stuart, manages and hosts the regional Business Plan Competition as part of the “Youth Entrepreneurship Program.” 

“The Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) provides an excellent opportunity for student entrepreneurs to present their business idea to a panel of judges, much like pitching to potential investors,” said Professor Bob Derbin, Business Instructor at Napa Valley College.  “It was so gratifying to see my students work diligently on their business plans and presentations. The passion they bring to their business idea is very inspiring.”

The overall purpose of the YEP program is to introduce the concept of small business ownership as a viable career choice.  Business advisors meet with teachers to design how to integrate entrepreneur plan development into local high school and college classrooms.  The advisors then meet in the classrooms with students who are committed to write their business plans. The business plans include a description of products and services, strategies for sales and marketing, customer service, operations, plus start-up costs and sales projections.

Not only did students research and write the business plans which had to pass the first panel of judges, they presented the plans live, in person, to an audience of peers and judges. Parents, teachers, judges and advisors all came together to support the students in presenting their plans.

Connor Days won first place in the High School Division for his business, Connor Days Photography. He is a Napa High School student specializing in shooting high school senior portraits with a unique style, quite different from the staged-standard style one usually sees for senior portraits. He targets Napa high school seniors, offering “edgy” photos preferred by today’s youth.  His challenge is to appeal to the high school student model, yet also appeal to the parent or grandparent, since they are the ones that pay for the photos.

Connor covered all key elements in a business plan and won top prize money of $1,000. Connor has invested $2,300 into his business at this point.  He designed his website which showcases his photography with impressive tech savvy polish. Connor’s business is a thriving home based, sole proprietor, freelance/GIG business.

Connor has an impressive 800 followers on Instagram and focuses on this marketing tool since students primarily use this web platform.  He also has a Facebook page to highlight his more standard style, since the parents and grandparents primarily use Facebook.  He understands social media and uses it to great advantage, appealing to millennials.  Social media also affords low cost promotion. He designed his own website and showcases his photography with impressive tech savvy flair and polish.

“The Youth Entrepreneurship Program gives students the tools for managing their own business, their careers and enriching our community,” said Molly Stuart, Business and Entrepreneurship Deputy Sector Navigator and Program Sponsor.  “I am so impressed with the students. They worked directly with expert production, marketing and financial advisors from our partner, Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. With this support, the students wrote business plans and presented their target market, financial statements and distribution for production.”

“Creating a business plan allowed me to structure all the aspects of a business including income and expenses, creating a plan for communicating with clients, setting my business goals for the coming years, and pricing my photography packages,” added Connor Days, high school winner. “Someone who gave me endless support through this process was my phenomenal advisor, Carolynne Gamble. As a graphic designer and creative herself, she was able to brutally critique my plan, giving her professional insights and opinions.”

And this is just the beginning for Days. “I am determined to take this knowledge I gained from creating a business plan and apply it to grow and expand my photography business,” he said.

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