I never thought I would become a business owner as a 14 year old.

When I first heard about the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), I decided to apply for it on a bit of a whim. It was a year-long program through which we built our businesses and received guidance from our instructor, area mentors and local business owners.

Joanne Lin

Joanne Lin

By the end of the program, however, my experience with YEA resulted in my business Ecopotz, which reuses milk cartons and transforms them into eco-friendly planter kits. YEA also gave me a completely new outlook on the business world of my community and my role in it, even as a teenager.

Previously, I vaguely knew that there was some business organization called the Chamber of Commerce. However, because the Chamber sponsored YEA, I eventually grew to be much more aware of all the opportunities the Chamber had to offer.

This awareness culminated when I attended the annual Chamber Choice awards, which recognized local businesses who had done extraordinary work. It completely opened my eyes to what was being done in my hometown. As someone who gravitates toward big, metropolitan cities, I was surprised at what was already being done in my relatively small hometown.

Inspired by the work of these businesses, I decided to find out more about what else was being done in Fargo. Now, I find myself attending events that push me out of my comfort zone, but the new ideas and people I learn about makes it worth it.

There are so many ways to get involved in your community. For me, the business world is what brought me closer to the place where I lived, led me to pursue my passion, and allowed me to meet incredible new people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to business, though. What’s important is to not let your age limit what you can or can’t do. Become more aware of what goes on around your community and engage in it. The rewards are incredible.

Joanna Lin, 16, is a junior at Davies High School, where she is involved in Environmental Club, Key Club, speech and Band Council. She enjoys playing clarinet and piano, hanging out with friends, and making bad puns. Joanna is the daughter of Xin Ding and Don Lin, who are members of Cass County Electric Cooperative.