Gabriel Kuris ’03 and his business partners — James Choy ’03, Nowshad Rizwanullah ’03 and Kitty Harvey ’02 — wanted to help low-income entrepreneurs start small businesses like hot dog stands, soup stands and gardening services in New Haven.
With the financial and educational support of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, these ambitious Yalies formed the Elmseed Enterprise Fund, a local non-profit organization that won first place in Y50K, YES’ annual entrepreneurship competition.
“It was quite an experience,” Kuris said of the competition. “Any freshman who wants to get involved should.”
YES is a non-profit organization run largely by Yale students and dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the greater Yale community.
For new Yalies looking to participate in a real world- based club and to gain experience in business, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society touts itself as the organization to join.
“It’s not just an on-campus organization,” YES President Julian Revie ’02 said. “Right now it is really a national organization, and we have many hundreds of alumni members who are all across the country.”
Since its founding two years ago, some have criticized YES for a perceived overemphasis on making money.
“Some people immediately associate an entrepreneurial society with business and are turned off by that,” former YES President David Pozen ’02 said. “We really try to do a lot with non-profits, especially in New Haven.”
YES’ annual Y50K competition includes a separate category for non-profit organizations. This year, 41 businesses entered this category, including the winning Elmseed Enterprise Fund. The for-profit winner this past year was MEMStar, a company that hopes to work with devices that use micro-electromechanical systems technology, known as “MEMS.”
YES also conducts educational seminars throughout the year to help students learn how to write business plans and evaluate retail franchise opportunities.
“The goals of YES are to facilitate new business through educational means,” Pozen said.
Kuris said he and his partners had to attend several YES seminars and lectures in order to learn how to write a successful business plan.
“It was a pretty long process, but we learned a lot from it,” Kuris said. “It was hard-core.”
YES has accumulated over 1,000 people on its e-mail list since it was founded by two undergraduates in the fall of 1999.
“Our growth has been amazing,” Pozen said. “We tapped into a void at Yale when we came along. It’s remarkable how deep and broad the organization has become so quickly.”
Pozen attributes much of YES’ success to its New Haven location.
“Being in a place like New Haven makes YES more significant and more interesting to be involved with than in places like Cambridge or Palo Alto because it’s a smaller business community, less well-developed, and you really get to know everybody,” Pozen said.
YES leaders said they have high hopes for continued growth in student involvement.
“There are so many different skills required to start a business and so many different phases of the entrepreneurial process,” Revie said. “People with any interest can find some aspect of YES that is relevant to them.”