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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Passion and Planning - The Perfect Package for Starting a Business

The Napa Valley College was the site of the recent Youth Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition, for high school and college students, which led faculty member and competition judge Dr. Ron Kraft to remark, “It’s clearly a new day!”

This optimistic statement was made in response to a student-developed business plan for a medicinal marijuana dispensary that would be called Napa Holistic Health Center, presented by Napa Valley College (NVC) students Julie Germenis and Katlin Peterson-Kiehl who took second place in their division, winning a $750 cash prize.

Success depends on planning, and Julie and Katlin did their due diligence with research on the emerging cannabis industry. The dispensary would responsibly control, and provide safe access to, medical marijuana for cancer patients, and individuals in our community with other ailments, while offering resources and support.

It’s a new day and high profits are projected!

“I learned the basic fundamentals that a business requires and how to implement them,” reported Julie, who also learned that practice and patience lead to completion of college and a successful life.

“The Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) provides an excellent opportunity for student entrepreneurs to present their business ideas to a panel of judges, much like pitching to potential investors,” said Professor Bob Derbin, Business 100 Instructor at NVC. “It was so gratifying to see my students work diligently on their business plans and presentations. The passion they bring to their business ideas is very inspiring.”


It Takes a Plan to Build a Business

First, business advisors (such as myself) visited local high school and college classrooms, worked with the teachers and helped the students write their business plans. The overall purpose of the YEP program is to introduce the concept of small business ownership as a viable career choice. Molly Stuart, DSN is the Program Director.

I worked with both high school and college students. All showed diligence, perseverance, tenacity, tech savvy research and impressive presentation skills. The business plans had to include a description of products and services, strategies for sales and marketing, customer service, operations, plus start-up costs and sales projections. See what I mean about hard work?

By deadline, and in the middle of finals, more than 80 business plans were entered from high school and college students. After a preliminary scoring, six teams were selected to compete in the high school division and six teams also made it into the college division.

Parents, teachers, judges and advisors, all came together to support the students in presenting their plans using PowerPoint presentation decks. Not only did they research and write the business plan, and pass the screening of the first panel of judges, they then had to present the plan live, in person, to an audience of peers and judges! Nerves were raw. The tension was palatable.

Competition and Winners

Connor Days won first place in the High School Division for his business, Connor Days Photography. A Napa High School student, he specializes in shooting high school senior portraits with a unique style, quite different from the staged, standard style of typical senior portraits.

Connor’s business is a thriving, home-based, sole proprietor, freelance business that targets Napa’s high school seniors, offering “edgy” photos preferred by his peers. His challenge is to appeal to the high school student model, yet also appeal to the parent or grandparent, since they are the paying customers.

Connor covered all key elements in a business plan and won the top prize of $1,000. He has invested $2,300 into his business, and designed his own website which showcases his photography with impressive, tech-savvy polish.

“Creating a business plan allowed me to structure all the aspects of a business including income and expenses, creating a plan for communicating with clients, setting my business goals for the coming years, and pricing my photography packages,” added Connor.

“Connor displayed entrepreneurial spirit from day number one.” Connor’s mom, Vida Harris said that he designed his first PowerPoint on the topic of why she should let him join a gym, and then later a presentation deck arguing the positives of why she should allow him to attend Napa Valley Independent Studies. “I am so proud to be his mother, and so proud of all the work and research he put into his business plan,” she said.

The first place winners in the College Division were Chris Jordan and Marissa Renda of Benefit Biscuits Dog Treats. “Pitching Benefit Biscuits was extremely rewarding and provided us with feedback from experienced professionals,” said Chris Jordan, owner Benefit Biscuits. “One of the judges suggested that we look into recyclable plastic bags for our dog treats, which is something we will definitely do! The competition is validation for my skills, work and business plan.”

“The opportunity to work with an experienced mentor was incredibly helpful because it helped us articulate and organize our ideas,” said Marissa Renda, partner in Benefit Biscuits. “It gave me knowledge that you cannot always learn in the classroom. The competition helped me prepare my business writing and presentation skills.”

Chris feels the advice from professionals was crucial because he wants to surround himself with those who inspire him. He will continue to keep in touch with the judges, mentors and other companies in the competition. Look for Benefit Biscuits on Facebook and Instagram.

“I learned to have a plan you can execute, plus goals to always keep you moving forward,” said Charlotte Dougherty, third place winner in the College Division with partners, Marcos Coronedo and Corinne Bicknell. The team wrote a plan for Spirit Horse, a nonprofit riding facility for disabled children and adults.

“I will complete all of the goals and objectives for Spirit Horse Therapeutic Riding Center. I have come this far on my passion and determination, and will now have the most successful year ever – by following the new business plan!” added Charlotte.

Success Due to Generous Sponsors

“The YEP program continues to impress and inspire all involved. It not only supports local economics, but backs innovative ‘can do’ career paths,” said sponsor Jake Fazio, VP Sales, Coleman Natural Foods/Petaluma Poultry and competition judge. “These students have options, whether it’s trade, small business or a four-year college. This generation is non-conventional and has new models to add economic value!”

Our many sponsors make it all possible. Our Business Sponsors are: Petaluma Poultry, Capital Access Group, Working Solutions, BD Company, EyeWorks Optometry, CellarPass, and the Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine. Our organization sponsors are: Napa Valley College, Napa Valley College Foundation, Napa/Sonoma Small Business Development Centers, and California Community Doing What Matters for Business and Industry.

Greater Good

THANK YOU to all finalists, businesses, sponsors and judges who supported the program! For my part, there is one thing I know for sure, all contributed to a “greater good,” and the future is bright in the hands of our youth! For more information about the Youth Entrepreneurship Program visit the website at

High School Division Winners

1st Place Connor Days Photography Connor Days, Napa High School

2nd Place Vintage Auto

Riley McPherson, Jasmine Ruiz, Joseph Smith, Caleb Devries, Kenneth Perry, Omar Lopez and Juan Arroyo (Tom Dougherty, Instructor), Vintage High School.

3rd Place Flavor Town

Nneka Chinaka, Bryan Sanchez, Jacob Mitchell, Gabriel Knight and Ezekiel Gomez (Chef/Instructor, Larry Singer), American Canyon High School Culinary

4th Place Three-Way Tie

Napa High Manufacturing

Connor McCall, Reese Boyle, Kyle Medina, Cesar Cruz, Chad Johnson and David Lopez (Ron Solomon, Instructor), Napa High School

Club 19 - A Teen Dance Club Designed by Teens for Teens Angel Pantoja, Maggie Carpenter and Alicia Lopez-Rios

Blank Apparel Garrett Buffo and Vikram Singh, Casa Grande High School

High School Division Judges

Catherine Heywood, Visit Napa Valley

Jake Fazio, Petaluma Poultry

Claudette Shatto, Napa Valley College

Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County Office of Education

College Division Winners

1st Place Benefit Biscuits Dog Treats

Chris Jordan and Marissa Renda

2nd Place Napa Holistic Health Center

Julie Germenis and Katlin Peterson-Kiehl

3rd Place Spirit Horse

Charlotte Dougherty, Marcos Coronedo and Corinne Bicknell

4th Place Three-Way Tie

SDVC Aquaponics

Sarah Palmer, Vanessa Lolarga, Clark Williamson and Dominique Doctor

Backwoods Café

Maria Gonzalez, William Brundige and Gabriela Garibay

Forever Dolled Up

Huda Tikinoff

College Division Judges

Peg Maddocks, Napa Learns

Laurie O’Hara, Working Solutions

Mike Roney, Capital Access Group

Dr. Ronald Kraft, Napa Valley College

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