September 13, 2023
Partners launch second year of FLEX ABY youth entrepreneurship competition
Albany – Earlier this month the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4C Academy) kicked off year two of FLEX ABY, a youth entrepreneurship competition which encourages innovation, enhances employability and creates prosperity.
The Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneur X-perience (FLEX) was founded in Fitzgerald and this program has expanded to 11 communities throughout the state. Albany was an early adopter and launched FLEX ABY in 2022, with its local finalist competing at the state competition in March. The program’s journey begins with 4C Academy students, drawn from various schools, who will compete in three challenging and rewarding phases for a chance to represent Albany at the state finals in Fitzgerald next spring. Participants will attend business workshops and work with mentors throughout the year. The finalists will receive valuable seed money to support and grow their business ventures.
“FLEX ABY is an effective and fun tool for inspiring innovation among our youth and showing them that their ideas can come to life and can be profitable while helping them develop the employability skills needed in the marketplace,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “Through our partnership and through the support and engagement of our business community, we can support aspiring entrepreneurs, to help foster innovation, retain talent and spur local investment and business partnerships in the long run.”
“This program is an integral piece of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s Talent Development 2.0 Strategy and is situated at the intersection of education and business,” said Laura Russ, strategic initiatives coordinator at the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “By bringing local business partners into the classroom to connect with students, we advance the work of creating a modern and adaptive workforce — which includes expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship, mentorship and developing employability skills in our youth.”
FLEX ABY engages students from 4C Academy, which encompasses students from throughout the Dougherty County School System as well as districts from surrounding counties, and connects them to local business partners who provide workshop content and mentorship during the competition.
“FLEX is an exciting opportunity for our students. So many of our young team members are interested in entrepreneurship and many have already started their own businesses,” said Chris Hatcher, CEO of 4C Academy. “This competition will help them by providing seminars, mentors and even a cash prize for the three finalists. Most importantly, it will expose them to a formalized business planning process as well as to members of our business community who are looking to help.”
The local competition is comprised of three phases, with one winner advancing on to the state finals, to be held in Fitzgerald in April 2024. The top ten students have the opportunity to secure a seed loan from the partnership in order to fund and expand their business operations prior to the finals. Local finalists will be given $6,000 in cash awards, with the state champion winning $10,000 in cash and prizes for their business growth.
Studies show that Gen Z is more entrepreneurial than generations preceding them, with 60 percent of teens reporting serious interest in starting their own business, Holmes said.
“Our goal through FLEX ABY is to encourage interest in entrepreneurship and to chart a path towards business ownership for our young people,” said Jana Dyke, president & CEO of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. “Investing in our students now will better enable them to invest back into our community later on.”
The Albany Area Chamber Foundation, founded in 1991, leads talent, economic, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives that provide impact beyond the business community’s normal reach. The Albany Area Chamber Foundation is the 501(c)3 affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at albanyga.com.
The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission facilitates job creation and business investment through the recruitment and retention of industry for Albany and Dougherty County.
The Commodore Conyers College & Career Academy produces college and career ready graduates with relevant skills, education and exceptional work ethic who can compete and succeed in the real world.