Youth Entrepreneurship Association Provides Funding and Encouragement for Teens
By Keemia Zhang
A Santa Monica High School (SaMoHi) business club-turned-nonprofit, founded by seniors Mason Arditi and Olivia Pirrone, is looking to expand its membership. Arditi and Pirrone, who hosted a booth at the Open Main Street 2023 Festival, are the co-founders of the Youth Entrepreneurship Association (YEA), which seeks to teach and lend its support to teenagers who run their own businesses.
“The main thing we want to teach is that it’s more of a mindset than an occupation. The conviction to look at something and see something that others don’t see. We want people to solve problems within the community.” Arditi explained. The YEA’s programs include business classes, resume-building sessions, a one-on-one mentorship program, and external speakers, alongside Summer Teenpreneurships, which permit students to seek over $250 in seed funding for their business ideas.
The club was initially started in 2021, becoming SaMoHi’s most popular club before transitioning into a nonprofit in a bid to assist lower-income teens. “We realized we weren’t helping kids that were needing this education. In L.A, there’s a huge amount of generational poverty.” Pirrone said. The YEA subsequently held programs at the Santa Monica and Mar Vista Boys & Girls Clubs and the Pico Youth and Family Center.
“We had about nine student-led businesses that we’ve incubated, from a clothing brand that stands against gun violence to a rideshare application for surfers, so we’re just kind of doing everything,” Pirrone remarked. Some of the group’s most successful stories include a vegan bundt cake company started in South Central that garnered $7500 in funding and a menstrual kit designed for school bathrooms designed by an eighth-grader.
“We’ve worked with over 200 students so far, and for our school programs, we have about 70 students between the two,” Arditi said. YEA currently operates between two high schools in Santa Monica and San Francisco. “Right now, we’re looking for other talented high school students to open up their club chapters. We’re licensing our IP to other high schoolers to start their own club and gain access to resources and funding.”
YEA operates primarily on company sponsorships (including a “generous grant” from State Farm) and local donations. Despite their ages, Aridi and Pirrone don’t believe they are at a disadvantage. “Now we see 24-year-old tech founders coming straight out of college – I think just to keep the trend going, we have to focus on high schoolers,” claimed Arditi. “They have the talent; they just don’t have the resources – or the credibility, because who gonna put bets on a high schooler, right?” The YEA’s goal is to eventually develop into a venture capital firm that exclusively funds teen businesses. “We want to create a network of young leaders and invest in them as much as we can
Members of the public can donate to the YEA on its website to support their efforts in providing business resources to local teens.