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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Generation Z - Creative Thinkers and Doers

By Carolynne Gamble, Youth Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition Advisor


Seniors at American Canyon High School rocked the virtual stage as they competed in the Youth Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition in early June.

One by one, five finalists took the stage. Zoom Zoom, share screen, run slides, as they presented their creative business plans to the judges. Meet Generation Z, graduating seniors taught by Anna Eshoo, College and Career Readiness Educator at American Canyon High School.

NAHOMY MORAILA tied for first place with her business, Cups and Mugs Coffee Company. In addition to her well-researched financials, Nahomy announced she will start the business with her own funds and will also be seeking a loan.

“As a Mexican American young lady, there are few to no women to look up to in the business industry,” said Nahomy. “Sharing first place with another Latina was a small, but big step into the industry and an example to others, to say the least. We learn life skills, which benefits every student in a unique way. The information taught within this program should be taught to all high school students! I hope to see this program expand and become something greater than a class. You have made it possible for me to shine a light brighter for my future.”

SHELLY MEJIA tied for first place with her business, Little Leaves. Shelly said her dad inspired her idea because he was a produce clerk for twenty years and her mom gave her the green thumb. Little Leaves will grow micro greens and sell to high quality restaurants and markets. Shelly has already designed her logo and printed business cards. Her location will be an outside greenhouse and in her basement “because micro greens can easily be grown inside or outside,” noted Mejia.

CLARISSA TOLSON presented her company, Vera Hair Care Products, Hair Accessories and COVID-19 Hair Products and admitted when she was younger, she was bullied for her natural hair. So she designed her organic hair products for managing all hair types, any gender and any age. Clarissa included her logo, plus an impressive, YouTube commercial which she produced and “starred in.” She won second place in the competition.

“I am so grateful to have had this experience because I now know that business is a career path I may want to pursue,” reported Clarissa. “This project kept me busy during shelter in place, and I had fun creating my business plan. I hope to continue towards the path of business and incorporate my other skills like sewing and cross-stitching. I feel inspired, motivated, and excited about the future. My creativity has helped a lot in this process, and I hope that it gets me places in life.”  

ALEXIA JUAREZ presented her business, Double A’s Art Studio and won runner up in the competition. Alexia’s based her business on her huge passion for art and helping others express themselves through it. She won an internship this year teaching art to students with special needs and fell in love with the kids and with teaching. She plans to get her Masters in Fine Art and an art therapy license. Alexia also had impressive financials including projections, sales estimates and projected use of funds.

DANIELA SOLIS was also runner up with Rancho Herencia Mobile Barber/Salon Shop. She declares herself a future Balayage specialist, certified barber, and licensed hair stylist! She will offer grooming services in a mobile shop in Napa and Solano counties. She proudly displayed her new logo and business cards, and featured some very trendy hairstyles for men.

About NVC Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP): The program’s business plan competition provides students with an opportunity to explore entrepreneurship plus earn cash prizes, generously provided by the program sponsor, Travis Credit Union.

“This is an amazing program,” exclaimed Kristofer Petnicki, Community Engagement Officer with Travis Credit Union, Napa and Solano Counties.

“The fact that Napa Valley College and the Napa County Office of Education have come together to make this program available is amazing. It is extremely impactful because it teaches vital business skills to students and gives them an avenue beyond traditional education.”

“It makes them aware of resources at their local community college and it allows them to explore entrepreneurship, and what it means to start and own their own small business. It exposes students to a greater breadth of opportunity, and it takes us closer to uniquely tailoring education to individual students.”

Petnicki feels that having the ability to cultivate your interest and turn that into a business plan with creativity, and explore what you want to do, is so valuable. Students then build on those skills that allow them to be successful when they transition to whatever it is they choose to do for a career.

Students developed their business ideas, with the support of Napa Valley College Small Business Advisors such as tireless advocate for youth, Marie Bianco, YEP advisor in Eshoo’s classes.

“Because of COVID-19, all they had to do was pass or fail,” explained Bianco. “They already had a passing grade before they started the business plan competition. And all 45 students continued and finished their business plans, when they could have said, ‘I have already passed. Why should I do this work?’”

“One girl said to me,” continued Bianco. “I really appreciate you. You honestly motivated me a lot in class and also as a person. I have huge respect for you and what you do. I’m definitely going to go through with this business and will be coming back to you for help to get started.”

Why Entrepreneurial Learning? Here’s some insight from the “founding father of YEP,” Charlie Monahan, Associate Dean of Economic and Workforce Development at Napa Valley College.

“These high school seniors - Generation Z - are tech-savvy, thoughtful, hard-working, confident, and intelligent. They are also innovative. The YEP program teaches students to thinking creatively, how to manage money and take responsibility.”

Monahan pointed out that with student access to money, mentors, and markets, youth entrepreneurship will surely contribute to economic growth. Also, many students are dedicated to giving back as they devote their ideas and profits to helping others and supporting causes close to their hearts.

“My favorite part in the process is the moment they get that spark in their eyes, and get excited about being a business owner,” concluded teacher, Anna Eshoo. “I am very proud of my students and their accomplishments. They all worked hard and had a positive mindset which I believe equals success!”

So all eyes on Gen Z! They’ve been raised by the internet; they are wise-to-worldly beyond their years, and we wish our winners and graduates ongoing success in business and in life!

For questions about the NVC Youth Entrepreneurship Program or contact Charlie Monahan, at 256-7254 or



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