The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF) was created in 1999 as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation affiliate of Arkansas Capital. The mission of AEAF is to nurture people and ideas to generate future Arkansas entrepreneurs.
Arkansas Capital has worked with local, state, and national public and private lending partners to invest over $1.6 billion into our state’s entrepreneurs and small businesses since the late 1950s — and knows what it takes to prepare entrepreneurs for success and viability in Arkansas.
AEAF is 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. 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 the 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 major costs to participate in any of the competitions.
Since 2001, nearly 8,400 students — from 5th grade through graduate school — have been competitors. More than $1.9 million in cash prizes has been awarded, and more than 1,500 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 who participate in the competitions 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.