BY NAN AUSTIN | Modesto Bee
July 25, 2014

Sahemi Castorena, left, and Janet Jimenez, both 17, present their business plan for a kebabs and cake pops food truck to business owners who volunteered with the Summer Entrepreneurship Academy in Modesto, Calif., on Friday, July 25, 2014. NAN AUSTIN —

As the economy improves, there just might be a market for Killer Klean organic pesticide, Pic’ the Moment photography and Brochette pancakes on a stick.

The 10 teens behind these and other faux firms presented Friday to a panel of community judges have time on their side, as well as business savvy gleaned during the Summer Entrepreneurship Academy. The nine-week program offered by the Center for Human Services gives high schoolers a chance to develop a business idea while getting a taste of retail by selling jams at a farmers market.

“My plans have always been to open my own business,” said Sahemi Castorena, 17. “I’ve learned so much. It hasn’t been a summer wasted.”

Castorena and Janet Jimenez, also 17, paired up to pitch Brochettes, a food truck serving kebabs, cake pops, and whatever else comes to mind or pops up on their Twitter feed for a secret menu item, like pancakes or pizza.

Both girls are competitive tennis players, Castorena for Pitman High in Turlock and Jimenez for Ceres High, but they met in the program. Speaking in sentences finished either in unison or by the other person, the two said their friendship will continue even if their kebabs are kaput.

“It is not easy to get up and start your business,” Jimenez said, adding that she hopes to go into medicine.

She knows because at weekly classes business owners shared their hard-knocks knowledge with the teens. Volunteer speakers included contractors, a trucker, photographers, a food truck vendor and retail shop owners. Talks on finance, marketing and graphics added some nuts and bolts to the mix.

For Anna Smolinski, 16, those sessions meant the most. “Speakers told us, ‘Here’s our experience, our story, our advice.’ You can’t go up to someone and just ask that,” Smolinski said. Her business proposal was a mural-painting partnership with her artist father, which she estimated would take $1,650 to get going, on the low side of startup costs.

The most expensive proposal was an $800,000 plan for Global Cuisine restaurant, “Serving the world on a plate,” dreamed up by Desireé Castorena, 13, Sahemi’s sister, and Ignacio Serrato, 16. The eclectic international menus would appeal to couples who could not decide on one type of food, Desireé said.

Like all presentations Friday, Global Cuisine focused on social media as its main marketing medium. Financing ideas also showed this was a new generation in business.

Kickstarter, an online donations site, would raise seed money for Killer Klean (slogan: “Slay ’em green”). Faux-CEO Michael Mattos, 16, estimated he would need to raise about $40,000 above family investment to develop and market a citrus-based organic pesticide for home and farm use.

His business plan, replete with well-researched specifics, could one day become a reality, Mattos said. He got the idea from his mother’s warnings when crop-dusters came to his family farm. “Why do we have to live in this world where we see the plane and have to run inside?” he asked.

Arranging parties for friends and relatives became the impetus for The Planning Duo, an event-planning service with the motto, “We get your party on,” said Brenda Diaz, 14, and Adrianna Gutierrez, 17.

Both said the academy was a good way to spend a summer. “We got business skills and skills that will help up is in our future lives,” Diaz said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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