Arkansas Capital Corporation, a Community Development Finance Institution, created the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF) in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The mission of AEAF is to be a catalyst in an environment focused on ideas and initiatives that nurture Arkansas’s future entrepreneurs, especially young Arkansans living in the state’s underserved communities.
Through hands-on and highly-incentivized business plan competitions, Y.E.S. for Arkansas and the nationally-renowned Arkansas Governor’s Cup, Arkansas students in grades 5-8 and in college can experience the real-world realities of entrepreneurship and learn the expectations of lenders and investors should they ever seek funding for a business enterprise.
Arkansas Capital works year-round to recruit sponsors for the competitions. We want to ensure that our future entrepreneurs can compete without financial barriers.
There are no requirements or pressures on teams to start their businesses. The intent of the Governor’s Cup and Y.E.S. for Arkansas is to give competitors a unique educational experience. Past competitors say they felt empowered to be creative, innovative and free to take initiative in developing a business idea as part of a team. They also say the competition helped them increase their critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills.
By competing, students get a rigorous and real-world entrepreneurial experience that’s hard to duplicate in a classroom. They also discover Arkansas has the resources they need to start, grow, and keep their businesses here at home.
Since 2001, the Governors Cup has awarded more than $2.3 million in cash to the winners of this prestigious business plan competition, open exclusively to Arkansas college and university students.
Arkansas Capital’s Youth Entrepreneurship Showcase (Y.E.S.) introduces elementary and middle school students to entrepreneurship via a structured business planning process. They begin with an idea for a product or service to solve what they see as a problem or unmet need in the marketplace. The competition showcases the students’ creative, innovative, and teamwork skills that emerge through the process.