YNS Entrepreneurship Academy (2022-2023)


On Wednesday, October 26, 2022, in partnership with Collettey’s Cookies and in the wake of our second Your Next Star Employment Academy, we kicked off the first-ever Your Next Star (YNS) Entrepreneurship Academy, a program for aspiring entrepreneurs with Down syndrome. The program intends to give a select group of self advocates with Down syndrome tips and tools for achieving their dream of running their own businesses. Catering to self advocates who have explored or developed expertise in a range of fields, the Entrepreneurship Academy promises to equip these hopeful business owners with specific skills and resources that will help them launch and sustain a successful enterprise.

The Entrepreneurship Academy kicked off with a one-day intensive workshop for self advocates focusing on entrepreneurship and personal branding, which took place at Collettey’s Cookies in the RSM building on Wednesday, October 26th. The very next evening, we hosted a virtual parent information session covering everything from financial to liability considerations.

Then, our group of entrepreneurs had a special opportunity to exhibit at the first ever RSM Holiday Market, showcasing their businesses and selling their products to RSM employees leading up to the holidays.

On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the entrepreneurs and their families attended a virtual follow-up session on Zoom. Building off the foundation laid during the one-day intensive workshop, the group discussed how to continue to build and share their stories, how to craft a mission statement, and how to consistently and purposefully engage with their current and future customers on social media.

In February 2023, each entrepreneur submitted the following items for Academy staff to review before 1:1 virtual meetings:

  • social media and company name
  • updated bio, mission statement, and tagline
  • a 1-minute video about who they are, what inspires them, and any challenges they’ve faced starting their business
  • a 10-second video on a piece of their product

The group also reconvened in person a few weeks later for a social media workshop. LinkedIn and other platforms are powerful tools for growing and sustaining a business in today’s market, so we felt it best to spend dedicated time discussing this important topic!

In March 2023, the MDSC was proud to launch a new mini-grant program as part of the Entrepreneurship Academy and through which active participants could apply to receive funding to support their small business. Examples of activities that could be supported through the mini-grant program include resources needed for product development; website development; graphic design and marketing materials (logo, business cards, etc.); and expenses to cover exhibit space and materials for conferences and markets.

Collettey’s Cookies and the MDSC, through its Philip Donahue Your Next Star Employment Center, are committed to transforming the employment landscape for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities in Massachusetts.

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