GRAPEVINE — When Rowan Konda’s best friend had a car totaled in a North Texas hailstorm several years ago, the wheels in the teenager’s head began turning.How could he prevent that from happening?The Colleyville Heritage High School student began designing OMG!Hail Covers, an idea for a portable hail cover for cars.Later this month, he’ll share his business concept at a national competition in Rochester, N.Y., in hopes of winning an entrepreneurial scholarship.To earn a spot at the YEA! Saunders Scholarship Bright Ideas National College Scholarship competition, he recently won a local leg of the event sponsored by the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce. It was the first time the chamber hosted “Grapevine YEA! – Young Entrepreneur’s Academy,” which gives fledgling entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase businesses they have created.The local program was the brainchild of RaDonna Hessel, chief executive of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce. She said the catalyst to launch the program was an article she read about the national program that she thought would be a perfect fit for Grapevine.“The article caught my eye and I brought the idea to our chamber,” she said.“I thought it would be a way to encourage new business owners and young owners,” Hessel said. “Young entrepreneurs are not afraid. They are not afraid to fail and get back up again.”Wowing investorsOn March 26, the chamber hosted Grapevine YEA! About two dozen students participated in the event that featured an investors panel that provided them with the opportunity to compete for start-up capital and a shot at the national event.Gayle Jagel, founder and CEO of Young Entrepreneurs Academy, likened the experience to appearing on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” which features business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs to a panel of potential investors.“Some of our previous participants have been contacted by the show,” Jagel said, adding that none have appeared.On hand were youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who presented their business ideas and marketing plans to investors who sponsored the program and provided some or all of their capital needs.Each business had six minutes to wow the investors and get a head start on their endeavors.More than a dozen businesses were presented and the investors selected the top business at the end of the night’s competition.The winner was Konda, who will be representing Grapevine on the national stage at the fifth YEA! Saunders Scholarship Bright Ideas National College Scholarship competition in New York on April 24-27. Konda will compete against other YEA! winners from across the country.Konda, 17, a senior who plans to major in entrepreneurship at Baylor University, said his head is constantly filled with ideas, but the one for the hard plastic car cover stood out.“I was born in Dallas and have lived in Texas all my life,” he said. “I have a lot of ideas but this one stood out because Texas has a lot of hailstorms.”So far, he has a prototype and no arrangements to manufacture it.“I’m starting small,” said the teenager, who works for his parents, Shawns and Katherine Konda, at their awning business in Colleyville.Grapevine YEA! beginsIn June, the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce announced the start of the YEA! Program at Grapevine-Colleyville school district.In August, students began YEA! by applying for the program. Each student went through an interview process, and those selected began the 30-week program, every Monday evening after school.They had the opportunity to meet with lawyers, insurance agents and business professionals, as well as tour businesses including the Gaylord Texan and Chick-fil-A.They worked with area business leaders as mentors, website developers and graphic design students from Texas Christian University to create their company logos and marketing material.By the end of the program, more than 100 business and community leaders invested hundreds of hours to help with the program and support the future business and community leaders.The students will continue to build their businesses by determining other funding if needed; meeting with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office to file business documents; preparing for their first trade show, which is scheduled for May 11 at Grapevine Mills mall; and meeting with even more area professionals to help build their strong business foundation.“Their experiences will last a lifetime,” Hessel said.YEA!’s direct mission is to help students embrace their passion, energy, creativity and talents, launch a venture and view entrepreneurship as synonymous with success and freedom, promoters said.“What makes this program so successful is that a lot of business owners feel the same way,” Hessel said.Applications for the next Grapevine YEA! are available online at www.grapevinechamber.org. or by calling the chamber at 817-481-1522.
Marty Sabota, 87-390-7367