Stuck at home during the pandemic, high school student Aryan Rana, of Berwyn, began teaching himself about investing, the stock market, and personal finance.
His isolation prompted an idea — and the spark for a winning business.
Rana, 16, thought others his age needed a fun way to learn more about money, so he invented Market Works, a card game that teaches the principles of finance.
“Money and finance are bigger concepts [that] you incorporate in your daily life, and not taught in high school,” Rana said in an interview. “Schools aren’t doing enough to teach finance, and online sources are intimidating.”
I have launched a Kickstarter funding campaign in April and raised over $3,500. The Market Works card game is due for delivery to customers in the fall, and retails for $20.
Market Works incorporates concepts like debt, savings, and speculating. The goal is to learn investing and how to grow wealth while also handling expenses and other financial hurdles.
Rana, a rising junior at Conestoga High School, said Market Works grew out of a series of extracurricular classes he signed up for through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a nonprofit with more than 100 chapters nationwide.
His idea won a local competition, catapulting him to a spot among 22 other students pitching their businesses in the national competition. Rana won first place — out of over 1,000 students who took part in the academy this year — on June 4, as he and other budding CEOs competed “Shark Tank”-style in a virtual final round.
And it wasn’t just a ribbon he won. Cash and scholarship money followed: Rana took home $5,000 and a $30,000 scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Young Entrepreneurs Academy, better known as YEA!, enlists middle and high school students, in grades six through 12, who focus on a business idea and entrepreneurship — transforming a concept into a valuable enterprise. YEA! teaches students the importance of social and business entrepreneurship, but also the process by which they start a business or social movement.
It’s a hands-on entrepreneurial education, and it’s not free. The cost per year totals roughly $800, though scholarships are available.
Students learn to write business plans, prepare and pitch ideas to investors, obtain financial backing, register businesses and social organizations, develop marketing plans, prepare for trade shows, and sell products and services.
The academy’s Philadelphia chapter has some bold-faced support: Rick Forman, founder of the discount retail chain Forman Mills, is a sponsor of the program, and spoke at the chapter’s graduation ceremony in May.
“I’ve been on the board for seven years, and on their panels. We judge the kids’ business plans, and it’s really fun,” Forman said in an interview. “Some of them are so young and amazing. It’s the same phenomenon of capitalism, freedom, entrepreneurs — everything old is new again.”
One graduate of YEA! Philadelphia, Shreyas Parab, made a successful line of custom ties, and went to Stanford University. “He’s going to be a major player, I’m sure,” Forman said. “We still keep in touch.”
YEA! was founded in 2004 and developed at the University of Rochester with the support of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. A chapter formed in Greater Philadelphia in 2013. More than 9,000 students across the country have graduated over the last ten years, according to Ellen Fisher, executive director of the local chapter.
Rana presold 90 orders for Market Works in the first 36 hours his idea went live.
I have credits YEA! Philadelphia for lessons learned, and the region for having “one of the largest communities of board game enthusiasts in the country.”
His next step for business?
“The largest board game convention in the world is happening at the [Pennsylvania] Convention Center in December” in Center City, he said. (That would be PAX Unplugged, Dec. 9-11). “I’m trying to get a table.”
“I sold about 160 games on Kickstarter, and I’ve sold 40 outside of that,” he said. He’ll offer discounts for bulk orders, and plans to sell to toy stores, financial advisers, accountants and insurance brokers.
“It’s a lot better gift than a pen,” Rana said.
Rana’s fellow academy classmates in the Philly area included students pitching everything from baked goods, to art books, aromatherapy pet beds, exotic car parts, and parties with a social purpose.
Here’s a list of this year’s YEA! Philadelphia participants: Daniel Adibi, Episcopal Academy, grade 8; Praneil Balike, Downingtown Stem Academy, grade 9; Aniah Bethea, Lower Merion High School, grade 9; Kayla Bigelow, Northley Middle School, grade 8; Kyle Burns, Fusion Academy Ardmore, grade 10; John CostalasMalvern Preparatory School, grade 12; John Council, Springfield High School, grade 11; Elle Fox, PA Leadership Charter School, grade 10; Kaitlyn Johnson, Baldwin School, grade 12; Siddhartha Karthik, Conestoga High School, grade 10; Advaith Kollipara, Pennfield Middle School, grade 9; Theresa Mitchell, Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School, grade 12; Aryan Frog, Conestoga High School, grade 10; and Henry Yoon, Harriton High School, grade 10.