Staff reports
The Petoskey News-Review
wood paddle board
PETOSKEY — Jason Thelen recalls that in developing his paddle board-building business, “I guess I didn’t really have a plan to sell products all over the world, I just started and the world found me.”

Thelen, of Little Bay Boards in Petoskey, shared this observation in response to a student’s question on Oct. 26 at Petoskey High School. The exchange came during a new program recently launched by Junior Achievement of Northern Michigan and local career/technical teachers called YES! Young Entrepreneurs Speak.

The goal of the program is to get young local entrepreneurs into classrooms to share their experiences and career paths with students. Jason Thelen of Little Bay Boards, Katie Potts of Petoskey Cheese, Cheryl Tallman of Fresh Baby, Emerson Meyer of The Waffle Cabin and Herb Carlson of SCORE were the first entrepreneurs to address the students and answer their questions.

“We could not (have) had a better group of entrepreneurs to launch this program,” said Matt Berger, a district manager with Junior Achievement. “Each one is doing big things and has a very different story. It’s important that students or future entrepreneurs realize that the career pathway to becoming an entrepreneur can be a bit adventurous when compared to other career choices. There are many different ways one can become (an) entrepreneur.”

The entrepreneurs answered questions from students on a variety of subjects, such as:

— how do you handle customers?

— what type of education do you have?

— how and when did you develop your idea?

— what did you do to prepare to become a business owner?

— how did you get started?

“Hopefully the kids came away with a sense of how challenging and rewarding starting a business can be,” Berger said. “It’s not a matter of just tacking a sign on a door, sitting back and counting the money. There’s a little more to it than that.”

Mote than 300 students attended the first session of the Yes! Program. There will be follow-up visits by the entrepreneurs to classrooms.

Junior Achievement is making plans to provide more programming like this in the near future, and Berger said there will be an effort to include other high schools and to deliver personal finance lessons to students using the same format.

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