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Kalamazoo high school students win business plan challenge, offer to compete nationally

It was a partnership between Comerica Bank and Young Entrepreneurz Solutions.
Posted at 4:48 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 16:58:00-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Three West Michigan high school students will soon be competing nationally after winning a young entrepreneur business challenge.

It all started with an idea that three Loy Norrix High School students came up with when asked to create a business plan and model for a YES (Young Entrepreneurz Solutions) Business Plan Challenge.

"I had seen the opportunity, and I wanted to just take full advantage of it," said Ja'Quan Jennings, one of the winners of the YES Business Plan Challenge.

Ja'Quan Jennings is just one of three who joined "Men of Purpose" his freshman year of high school. Now, Jennings is about to be a senior at Loy Norrix High School.

"Men of Purpose" is an organization started by a teacher to give students the tools they need to stay on the right path while also networking and helping throughout the community.

"Our class was pretty disruptive, so he came in to help out," said Jennings.

Through a partnership between Comerica Bank and Young Entrepreneurz Solutions, students like Jennings were able to participate in the free entrepreneurship program where they learned how to create business plans.

"We went for something we all were comfortable doing. We all knew how to do it, and something we all can rely on each other for doing, so we went with a mobile car washing business," said Jennings.

"The program teaches students. The language provides them tools, give them some skill-building, getting involved in that over a five-day period. So at the end, they have a pitch competition," said Michael DeMartelaere, the VP of External Affairs for Comerica Bank Michigan.

The pitch competition being the YES Business Plan Challenge which Jennings and two other students, Ahmaan Atkinson and Jahkai Smith, won.

During that time the 12 total students in the program also got to interact with real-life business owners and bankers to get a glimpse of what those jobs are actually like.

"We’re building those new business owners. We are giving those the ability to be business owners because as you know, small businesses are the backbone of our country," said DeMartelaere.

The "Men of Purpose" recieved cash prizes and an offer to compete in the national YES Business Challenge in the U.S. Virgin Islands in November 2022.