The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF) was created in 1999 as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation affiliate of The Arkansas Capital Corporation Group.
Arkansas Capital has worked with local, state, and national public and private lending partners to invest over $1.5 billion in small businesses since the late 1950s — and knows what it takes to prepare entrepreneurs for success and viability in Arkansas.
AEAF was established with a mission to nurture people and ideas to generate future Arkansas entrepreneurs by being a catalyst to attract, develop, and retain entrepreneurial opportunities within Arkansas.
AEAF has indeed been a catalyst in mobilizing Arkansas’s next generations of entrepreneurs through statewide, real-world business plan competitions. In 2001, AEAF launched the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan competition for Arkansas’s two- and four-year college and university students enrolled in any program of study. The success of the Governor’s Cup has led to the creation of the Youth Entrepreneurship Showcase (Y.E.S.) for Arkansas’s 5th – 8th grade students in 2005 and Y.E.S. for Arkansas 2.0 in 2011 for high school students.
None of these competitions are possible without these support of nearly 200 individuals and businesses who come together each year to support the competitions as judges and as event and cash prize sponsors. Because of the generosity of sponsors, students and their teachers / advisors are not burdened with entry fees or costs to participate in any of the competitions.
Since 2001, nearly 10,000 students — from 5th grade through graduate school — have been competitors. More than $1.82 million in cash prizes have been awarded, and more than 1,300 Arkansans from the business, government, education, and nonprofit sectors have volunteered as judges.
Teachers and mentors say that because of the rigor of the process and the feedback from the judges, students receive one of the best real-world experiences they can get while in school.
Win or lose, students who compete acquire an entrepreneurial mindset and learn that the resources to succeed in business can be found here at home, regardless of whether they go to college, go to work for someone else, and/or start their own businesses.