Arkansas school children are bringing their entrepreneurial dreams to life in an annual competition that features kids’ inventions and innovations. The Youth Entrepreneurial Showcase will feature the innovative products and services of the 25 finalists’ teams, along with a marketing piece and a display booth the school teams have developed for the competition. “More than 180 business plans were turned in for the 2011 competition,” said Kerri Daniels, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, which sponsors the statewide initiative. AEAF is a division of Arkansas Capital Corporation Group. “Y.E.S. is designed to encourage Arkansas’ students to act upon their ideas and talents –those are the ideas that will produce tomorrow’s businesses,” said Daniels, “and we are pleased each year to find that more than 70 percent of the entries come from rural areas of the state.” Bright Ideas In the past, teams have come up with business plans to sell all kinds of invented products, from decorated tissue boxes and baked goods to accessories like purses made from duct tape. Past teams have produced pretty creative items, said Daniels. The “Second Hand Hollows” team recycled books by cutting out pages inside to make secret hiding places for special things. The “Banking Bear” team produced a stuffed animal that had a secret zip pocket for stashing money as a more secure alternative to a piggy bank. And “Fortune Soap” produced handmade soaps that held secret messages in the middle. The young entrepreneurs win real cash for the realization of their ideas. Prizes are awarded in four categories – business plan, innovation, marketing piece and retail display booth. The first-place team members in each category win $100 and their teacher advisers are awarded an additional $500. Each year, more than 75 Arkansas business leaders serve as volunteer judges to assist in the selection of the winners. The multi-phased approach – brainstorming, product creation, business planning, marketing planning and display booth building – encourages students to apply what they learn in school to a real-world simulation, including selling to the public. Local Showcase This year’s showcase will be Jan. 14 at the McCain Mall in North Little Rock, and the 25 finalist teams will showcase their products and services, marketing materials and display booths at the event. The showcase will be from 10 a.m.-1:15 p.m., with the awards presentation at 1:30 p.m. in the Food Court. “It’s so much fun every year to see what these Arkansas school children are thinking up, producing and marketing,” said Daniels. “I love the Showcase because it allows the kids to share their ideas and show them off.” Y.E.S. for Arkansas started in 2005 as a project for middle school students, and since then, more than 2,900 students have participated in this entrepreneurial event.