YES: Young Empowered Startuppers

Accessible youth entrepreneurship edutech program empowering pre-adults to be collaborative creators of financially-sustainable ventures.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Naheed Henderson

Initiative's representative date of birth

June 1975

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Canada

Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

Website :
Video tour :

When was your organisation founded?

Organisation founded 06/2009
Project launched 09/2019

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

My “Aha!” moment happened as my daughter and her teammates were kicking a soccer ball around, like kids do all over the world. It occured to me that they can change the world no matter their location and access to traditional programming. If we’re lucky, every kid will. Then I wondered how we could tip the scales in everyone's favor. I looked and there is no real- world program – a program that’s not just a lemonade stand builder - available that can empower any kid anywhere with an entrepreneurial mindset to make the world a better place and build a viable business model around it. So, I decided I’d make the world a better place by creating a digital solution that allows kids everywhere to take part.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

The ILO identified 3 skill areas ( ) as critical enablers for global youth: entrepreneurship, professional digital literacy, and financial self-sufficiency. Although significant public expense has been directed to programming in these areas, the results have not been both easily scaleable to allow universal accessibility, while providing concrete skill development through experiential learning.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

YES is an virtual learning and entrepreneurship work space, accessible from anywhere at anytime by anyone. YES means no one needs to be isolated or disenfranchised from participating fully in the regenerative entrepreneurship economy of the future. Designed for youth 15-18 years old, YES provides reliable access to a comprehensive learn-by-doing program. The program is not dependent on boots-on-the-ground delivery by expert facilitators, which has historically made roll out and delivery of other promising programs unreliable. Instead, a virtual trainer guides learners step-by-step through the foundations of current approaches to entrepreneurship as they build their own sustainable venture using digital collaboration tools. Young people can log in with nothing but a mobile device and a desire to learn, then transform themselves over a few weeks through real-world experience building an innovative venture from scratch. Co-founders, advisors, and other collaborators can all be invited to join the learner on their entrepreneurial journey. YES makes it possible to provide universal access to entrepreneurship skill-building and collaborative regenerative venture-building opportunities.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

YES offers a unique structure and innovative content. YES combines a virtual tutor with experiential learning and collaboration tools on a “flipped classroom” model. Learners absorb new content on their own time, apply their knowledge by building their own venture, and then work together with their advisors and collaborators to iterate and improve. No in-community experts are required; YES works for anyone, anywhere. YES allows learners to put current regenerative economy-based thinking into practice. Entrepreneurial mindshift coaching, vocational digital literacy skill-building, and financial sustainability training are anchored through creating a venture. YES has immediate local impact - ventures are built through community collaboration

(Instructions for questions 5 and 6, no answer required) Please only answer the question (5 - “employability” or 6 - “financial capability”) that applies to your organization’s topic of work (see below for definitions)


6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

YES provides youth with the skills to create their own financial well-being by building a financially sustainable business. YES does not emphasize creating debt-driven business models. Instead, it guides learners to plan, build, validate and iterate a financially sustainable business model by employing activity-based budgeting principles. YES allows learners to document, analyse, and synthesize data and share this data with collaborators, advisors, and co-founders.
YES was created to allow learners to reach beyond the limits of their own physical circumstances, to connect with people, ideas, and ventures that support a sustainable growth-mindset. These collaborative activities are designed to facilitate symbiotic partnerships, inform the sustainable development of the founder’s venture, and ultimately contribute to building regenerative innovation ecosystems.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

YES offers a culturally inclusive critical path approach to financial sustainability. Learners focus on gathering and synthesizing reliable data to drive activity-based budgeting decisions. This learn-by-doing approach empowers youth with the skills to be financially healthy. Progress measures include in-program tests. Impact is measured by ventures created, 12/24month survival rates, and persistence of self-funding. Since YES’ launch 6 months ago, over 200 ventures and counting have been created. Future iterations will measure learner mindshift changes, and number of related ventures.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

YES meets the urgent need for reliable, accessible, and scaleable youth-oriented entrepreneurship training. The ILO delivered a program to over 3 million learners ( ), but its dependence on skilled in-community mentors impeded its scaleability and reliability, making it fundamentally inaccessible to most of the world’s youth. Well-recognized universities and providers such as Coursera offer programs, none of which are fully interactive, place-independent and self-sufficiency focused. YES empowers youth anywhere to create their own sustainable ventures.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

YES has empowered over 200 youths to create their own ventures, since its launch in the fall of 2019. Indigenous communities, and secondary schools in Canada and the US, are participating, along with 14 independent learners based internationally. Unexpectedly, YES led to meaningful cross-cultural exchange. Two YES groups, one a private school community in a metropolitan area and one an indigenous community in a rural area, learned of each others’ participation. They organized a peer exchange to encourage divergent thinking and facilitate culturally inclusive approaches to problem-solving in business model creation and iteration. YES will be iterated to facilitate more of this type of open collaboration. Impact measurement will be subsequently geared to reflect changes in learner mindshifts, creation of symbiotic partnerships, and correlations with regenerative ecosystem development.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The YES program is currently financially self-sustaining. The initial build costs have been recouped by related projects; ongoing maintenance of the platform is covered by SaaS subscription fees of current participants. The next planned iterations to increase impact include community-building tools to facilitate peer-mentoring, and a multi-lingual version of the program. We expect CAN50-60k associated development costs, with minimal incremental increases in ongoing maintenance costs. We will continue to make YES available to education resellers on a subscription-based SaaS model, including licensing to schools/NGOs. We also plan to offer YES as as a community engagement program for MNOs seeking to add to their CSR portfolios.

10. Team

Our team includes the YES program creator, who is CEO of the Global Startup Accelerator program at Empowered Startups, a transnational business incubator. The international IT team is led by a UX designer. Advisors include Empowered Startups Co-founder & CEO and the Co-Founder of Humanitas Capital Management. As the program grows, we expect to add in-country liaisons to organize community-building events.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Nationality
  • Ethnic group

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

I was raised in rural America in an immigrant family at a time when it wasn’t cool to be off-grid and brown. Most people in our part of Vermont were white, and either farmers, or assembly line workers. Maybe my upbringing drew me to entrepreneurial social ventures. There’s a certain thrill that comes from venturing out, making a difference and being forced to navigate life’s challenges with creative solutions because you were not being fed them otherwise.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

YES’s power is especially evident when it is made available to pre-adults in remote and underserved communities. In one such community, Claudia (name changed) signed up for YES as soon as it was publicized. Her time spent on social media activities had inspired an ambition to create a wellness coaching program. One of her first paying customers was Tara, who had a part time job in the school cafeteria. Tara felt confused by math-related subjects, and was not on track to complete secondary school. Claudia’s success inspired Tara to sign up for YES, and within a month she had the beginnings of a catering company mapped out. Crystal, a community adult who’d moved to the city to start her own business, became an advisor to both young women using YES’ digital collaboration tools. Crystal was so impressed with their progress that she facilitated the launch of YES in a neighbouring community.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Monitoring Impact
  • Board Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design
  • Brand Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Currently, 100% of project funding is derived from earned income.

Initial development costs were incurred by the parent program, as an extension of existing projects. These costs were recouped through income from the project’s first customers. 

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

The YES program has minimal variable operating costs, all of which are related to new customer acquisition. Its fixed costs are covered by its parent program, which shares its IT infrastructure. As detailed below, YES requires partnerships in order to grow and scale its impact. As such, scaling YES only requires funding to cover costs of establishing new partnerships, and maintaining ongoing relationships. Such costs may be considered in terms of the opportunity costs to the program team spending time developing and maintaining partnerships .

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

 YES is ready to scale rapidly in terms of adoption and impact, thanks to both its structure and content. The 3 primary strategies to drive scale-up are: organic exponential adoption facilitated by resellers; government recognition and impact awareness; and corporate leadership through CSR programs. We anticipate the critical mass required to enable self-perpetuation will be achieved when YES has over 1000 participants per continent. YES is regenerative by nature, and is ready for additional momentum to broaden its impact.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

YES’ entrepreneurial journey enables the mindshifts youth need to build regenerative local economies with global connections. Through its focus on validated business modelling and activity-based forecasting, the program empowers learners to create self-funded ventures, rather than relying on debt-fueled growth. YES' digital collaboration tools support creating symbiotic partnerships and forming a board of advisors. Roadmapped additions to YES will facilitate global networking. We have seen firsthand the positive effects on learners’ self-efficacy, creativity and resilience. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

YES is an iteration of a globally-recognized accelerator program for accomplished executives, developed by transnational incubator Empowered Startups, a designated entity certified by the Government of Canada. YES has been in active deployment since September 2019; it has been recognized and adopted by schools and communities in both Canada and the US.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

The YES team is keen to grow the breadth and strength of the program’s collaborative partnerships. YES is designed to be highly scaleable and for its impact to grow exponentially through its collaboration tools. Key partnerships with public bodies to publicize impact, and with community organizations and MNOs to increase availability will build the momentum to kickstart exponential growth. These partnerships will enable YES’ impact to reach and include even more youth in underserved communities.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 63.6%

Yes/maybe - 27.3%

Maybe - 9.1%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 16.7%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 16.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 8.3%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 16.7%

Maybe/no - 8.3%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 41.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 83.3%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 66.7%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

Other option - 33.3%

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Attachments (4)


Recommended plan for implementing the YES program over the course of a grade 12 classroom semester.


Recommended strategies for implementing YES within a grade 12 classroom setting.


Detailed responses to the Future Skills Innovation Challenge questions.


News release announcing the Young Empowered Startuppers (YES) program.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Jimmy

I enjoyed the focus on young people and the fact this may help nurture those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.