Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Be a YEA! Mentor to Young Entrepreneurs in the Finger Lakes


Krista Gleason

Krista Gleason,
YEA! mentor & owner of Gleason Writes

When I grow up, I want to be a…

Do you remember the first thing you wanted to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a sales clerk at my local Kinney Shoes in Geneva, NY. It wasn’t just the shoes I liked. I was fascinated by the metal shoe sizer, kept under the squat leather stool reserved for the salesperson. It was a shiny and complex-looking device. To a young mind, it was magical. How much had my feet grown this time?

Turns out, the metal shoe sizer was invented in Syracuse, NY.

It’s called the Brannock Device. First manufactured in 1925, it remains the standard foot measuring tool for the footwear industry. It was invented by a young Charles Brannock when he was a student at Syracuse University. After experimenting for two years to find the best way to measure the foot, he built a prototype using his childhood Erector set. The Brannock Device continues to be made at the Brannock Device Company in Liverpool, NY.

Young people have an innate capacity for innovative thinking. And there’s an amazing Finger Lakes-founded program to support them. The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) helps middle and high school students develop a business idea and start their own company. It launched in 2004 at the University of Rochester and is now a thriving national initiative.

I recently volunteered as a mentor to YEA! students at Finger Lakes Community College. I spent 10 Saturday mornings working with these young entrepreneurs on their written business plans. Because my specialty is communications, most of my time was spent reviewing their drafts and marking edits, offering feedback on the clarity and consistency of their messages, and helping them finalize the content in order to prepare their Investor Pitch.

Other mentors share their knowledge of financing, graphic design and other aspects of launching a business.

As with most volunteer opportunities, you take from the experience more than you give. Here are some important lessons I was reminded of while working with the YEA! students:

1. If you have an idea, have the courage to pursue it. If you don’t, you’ll almost always wish you had.

2. It’s ok if your idea changes along the way. That’s how the process works. Be flexible enough to adjust.

3. Have a positive attitude. Positive thinking not only makes things possible, but makes them more fun, too.

4. The foundation of a successful business is a solid business plan. Writing the plan may seem like a daunting task, but it’s achievable. Write it one section at a time.

5. Be confident in selling your idea. Investors, and ultimately customers, put their money in people as much as they do in products.

Each of the YEA! students chose to participate in this program despite their packed schedules of schoolwork, sports, music and other activities. I am impressed by their initiative, creativity, dedication, and the support they gave each other.

Congratulations to these FLCC YEA! students:

Aryan Moore, Victor Junior High School, CEO of Knit Mitts, a maker of mittens and gloves that are donated to kids in need;

Brandon Russell, Honeoye-Falls Lima Middle School, CEO of No Touch Flush, a touchless toilet flush device and top winner of the Investor Pitch;

Carly Waltman, Naples Elementary School, CEO of Full of Fashion Boxes, a subscription service for fashion accessories for girls ages 8-18;

Kendall Davis, Marcus Whitman High School, CEO of iTranspose, a furniture upcycling business;

Liam Aitchison, Pittsford-Mendon High School, CEO of Restitched, a clothing upcycling business;

William Sloth, Marcus Whitman High School, CEO of Earthify, whose mission is to reduce the carbon footprint through tree purchases.

Thank you to LaToya Collins for leading the FLCC YEA! program and supporting each student’s success.

And thank you to the community partners whose leadership and generous support makes the local YEA! chapters possible: LOCATE FINGER LAKES, Lyons National Bank, Finger Lakes Community College and Cayuga Community College.

Please consider becoming a YEA! mentor at Finger Lakes Community College or Cayuga Community College. You’ll support a young entrepreneur, and find inspiration for yourself, too. 


Krista Gleason started her company, Gleason Writes, in 2014. Krista is a business writer and copywriter who helps companies communicate through clear messages and compelling stories. You can contact her at

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