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Sam's Club has donated $250,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) and the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a national educational program that helps middle and high school students become entrepreneurs.
The year-long collaboration will enable 8,000-plus students across 38 states to take part in YEA!'s 30-week entrepreneurship class, where they can generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their own legally registered companies.
As part of the sponsorship, Sam's Club is giving $75,000 in "Success Made Simple" startup funds to expand YEA! to 30 new communities beginning this autumn. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is now accepting applications from local chambers that want to start a YEA! program, and this summer will choose 30 chambers to receive up to $2,500 in Sam’s Club startup funds. Local chambers can apply online for the funds through May 30.
The collaboration will also include YEA! curriculum enhancements such as behind-the-scenes student field trips to Sam's Club and a classroom case study on the perseverance and success of company founder Sam Walton; local Sam's Club and chamber leaders serving on a YEA! Investor Panel to judge student business pitches and award startup funding, with top students advancing to a regional competition and receiving a $500 Sam's Club shopping spree and membership; Sam's Club and chamber leaders judging the YEA! Saunders Scholars Regional and National Competitions that award college scholarships to student entrepreneurs; and some YEA! students having the opportunity to pitch their business plans to Sam's Club buyers, with the chance to showcase their products at select clubs and on the chain's e-commerce website.
"Sam's Club has helped small businesses start up and succeed since we opened 32 years ago," said Seong Ohm, SVP of membership services at Bentonville, Ark.-based division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "Learning about savings with Sam's Club will allow YEA! students to thrive and succeed in the long term."
"By offering support for these educational programs, we hope to emphasize what a powerful tool entrepreneurship can be," added Carolyn Cawley, SVP of strategic development at the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
"YEA! is designed to bridge the business and educational community, while developing confident, skilled future leaders," said Gayle Jagel, CEO and founder of the Rochester, N.Y.-based program, which is currently available in 109 locations across 38 states. "Our new alliance with Sam's Club … is designed to generate legendary community engagement and teach young people to embrace their passion, live their dream and change the world."
Sam's Club operates 647 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico.