Success can be measured in different ways.
That was apparent after listening to graduates of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) during an alumni luncheon at the newly-opened Dave & Buster’s at the Staten Island Mall.
The program – which works with high school students for 20 weeks teaching them how to design and develop their own business from scratch — completed its fifth year in May. The milestone seemed like an opportune time to gather past participants to meet with each other and share success stories before heading off to college.
One of those success stories belongs to Bahij Nemeh.
The recent Staten Island Technical High School graduate, who gained knowledge in business-related topics ranging from business proposals to funding to insurance in the YEA! program during the 2015-16 school year, developed an idea to sell 3D printers.
“It gave me insight into how complex running your business actually was in both the legal side and financial side,” he said. “It opened my eyes and showed I actually have to do research. I can’t just start a business and go with the flow.”
While 3D printers were his starting point, Nemeh eventually grew this idea into a legitimate money-making business selling 3D-printed parts and creating prototypes for people. Since profits have allowed him to pay for his expenses such as clothes and car lease, he is already carving out time and locations to continue the business while he attends Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., this fall.
“Freshmen year, I knew I wanted to have something. I just didn’t know what it would be. This program helped me develop it into this business,” said Nemeh.
While Nemeh’s ambition serves as a wonderful financial success story, the YEA! program also serves as an instrumental tool to help students transition successfully to adulthood.
“I thought I was going into the program to learn about businesses and it would be strictly a business course. But it turned out to be much more,” said Jordan Hafizi, who participated in the 2016-17 program. “We came together as a family. Whenever we need each other, we have a group chat.
“I didn’t learn just business. I learned networking skills and how to talk to people. On a school trip, I remember learning about body language and when you shake someone’s hand what to do,” said the recent Susan Wagner graduate. “The program really allowed me to expand my horizons.”
Staten Island Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Linda Baran spoke to the alumni about the role the Chamber can play for their future. She mentioned the importance of networking with different business professionals and how that can forge strong contacts with local community leaders to advance their professional careers.
Applications are now being accepted until Sept. 15 for the 2018-19 YEA! program. The program is for high school students and takes place at Staten Island Technical High School on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“I tell people all the time if you want to go into business and entrepreneurship, this is the perfect program,” said Nemeh.