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At YEA! Philadelphia, kids are on a mission to be entrepreneurs (from Philly.com)

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Alice Bu, CEO of Cross Pacific Buddies, shares her entrepreneurial knowledge at the YEA! trade show. (YEA! Philadelphia)

By Diane Mastrull, Staff Writer
Posted: August 15, 2016

Just two years ago, Shreyas Parab was such a shy, unassuming teenager that it pained him to make eye contact. Now the 15-year-old from Aston, Delaware County, wears ties declaring himself a chick magnet and a stud muffin.

And he’s running a company that has sold nearly 600 of those novelty ties for close to $17,000 in its first 14 months of business, tapping into a market where whimsy is popular.

Parab also makes pitches to investor panels, and has met with Sam’s Club executives in Bentonville, Ark., hoping to get his Novel Tie line in their stores. A decision is pending.

“It was amazing,” he said, breaking into a braces-laced smile few teens would be at ease to show. Not Parab, who was the picture of self-confidence in an interview and photo shoot at Iacobucci Formal Wear in Havertown, where co-owner Steve Cassel carries his ties. (They’re also sold at www.mynoveltie.com.)

“This was where someone took a chance on me,” Parab said against a backdrop of tuxedos and shiny black shoes.

To his right, wearing a wide-brimmed gray hat and prideful smile was someone else who took a chance on him, and whom Parab credits for his transformation to salesman.

“She wears hats, I wear ties,” he quipped.

Ellen Fisher, herself an entrepreneur, saw potential in the 13-year-old she accepted into the program she helped start in the Philadelphia region three years ago, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

Better known as YEA! Philadelphia, it is one of more than 100 chapters nationwide, but Pennsylvania’s first. It is the only one serving the Greater Philadelphia market, including South Jersey and Delaware. Its mission is to teach entrepreneurial skills to students in grades six through 12 with an after-school program rare in its scope and structure. The new economy demands it, Fisher says.

“Our ideas of kids getting a corporate job and being set the rest of their lives is not sustainable,” said the 59-year-old mother of two from Havertown. “It’s possible this generation is going to have to create its own jobs.”

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