Cullman-area students step into ‘shark tank’ to kickstart their own businesses


The judges enjoy samples from “Pixie Fudge,” which won $500 and a free booth at this summer’s 2nd Friday events in downtown Cullman at Thursday night's YEA! event. / W.C. Mann for The Tribune


CULLMAN – The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday evening gave students in its Young Entrepreneurs’ Academy (YEA!) the chance to compete for business start-up money and the potential for more at the national level.  Participants pitched ideas and plans to established business leaders in an event similar to the television show “Shark Tank.”

According to the Chamber, “YEA! is a class taught in both Holly Pond and Cullman High Schools.  Our YEA! students have been working on their business ideas all year, and this Investor Panel could bring them one step closer to becoming actual business owners.  Winners of this event will receive real seed money to help start their business, and one winner will have the opportunity to travel to New York to compete for The Saunders Scholarship.”

What is “YEA!”?

YEA! gives students the opportunity to start their own real businesses with advice and assistance from real business leaders in their community, while learning just what it takes to be successful in the business world and American workforce.

On its Facebook page, the Chamber explains that “YEA!’s mission is to develop and deliver exciting, experience-based entrepreneurship programs to young people to enable them to transform their ideas into real enterprises that create economic and social value for a better world, develop the character or tomorrow’s leaders, and enable educational institutions to provide successful entrepreneurship and social innovation training programs for youth between the ages of 11 and 18 around the country.”

Cullman area YEA! participants

Thursday’s presenters included:

  • “Worship Warrior” – Averi Wallace and Hannah Sanchez
  • “Overtime” – J.T. White, Lawson Bach and and Sam Brand
  • “Lawn Defenders” – T.J. Fallin
  • “Pixie Fudge” – Lindsey Lowery
  • “Shay’s Grill” – Adriana Martin
  • “Cullman Personal Carriers” – Brock Story
  • “Paradise City Equine Facility” – Hannah Heatherly and Jackson Chambers
  • “Squeez’ems Lemonade” – Jake MacAfee, Trey Tucker and Will Morrison
  • “Instruct, Inc.” – Parker Van Dyke and Zane Manly
  • “Cam’s at Your Convenience” – Camden Moore and Preston Gunter
  • “GARS” – Edgar Medina, Amberdestiny Menendez and and Claudio Rameriz


The panel included:

  • Leah Bolin – Chamber of Commerce
  • Stephen Skinner – In-N-Out Self Storage
  • Blinda Walker – American Proteins, Inc.
  • Kay Stewart – Carquest Auto Parts/Stewart’s Auto Supply
  • Zac Smith – AGCOR Steel
  • Gary Nunn – Premier Bank
  • Eddie Canaday – Alatex

At the end, the panel selected the following students’ businesses to sponsor:

  • “Worship Warrior,” a faith-based T-shirt business by Averi Wallace and Hannah Sanchez – $300 for inventory, plus a booth at 2nd Fridays this summer, and assistance with incorporation
  • “Lawn Defenders,” a lawn care service by T.J. Fallin – $200 to attend leadership course
  • “Pixie Fudge,” by creative flavor fudge maker Lindsey Lowery – $500 for inventory, plus a booth at 2nd Fridays this summer
  • “Cullman Personal Carriers,” a grocery delivery service by Brock Story – $450, plus help working on credit
  • “Squeez’ems Lemonade” – Jake MacAfee, Trey Tucker and Will Morrison – $200 for inventory, plus a booth at 2nd Fridays this summer

And the winner was…

“Instruct, Inc.,” a service developed by Parker Van Dyke and Zane Manly to connect learners with tutors online, but for face-to-face instruction in academics, arts, etc. – $1,000 plus assistance with web design and other startup matters.  Instruct, Inc. will also represent Cullman County in national competition in New York for The Saunders Scholarship, which provides money for college and business startups.

For more information about the Chamber’s YEA! program, visit

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