Shifting Gears

A Web site that helps workers under 35 become entrepreneurs
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Remember that limbo-land between college and the time you decided to become an entrepreneur? The frustrating job searches? The meaningless office tasks? The long days alone in your cubicle, pondering the question "What the hell am I doing here?"

Peter M. Hess, the 31-year-old founder of Young Adult Professional Associates Inc. (YAPA), remembered those days with such vivid alarm that he was moved to create an organization to help under-35 workers gain a foothold in the world. Young professionals can check out to look for a new job, network with employers and other young professionals and buy career-aiding products such as the YAPA Career Success Kit.

Hess, who worked as an insurance agent for several years after college, started the 125,000-member organization as a nonprofit in 1995, after he hosted a smash-hit cocktail party for local young professionals.

After researching the market, building a Web site and creating a business plan, Hess quit his job in 1997 to run the no-longer nonprofit, now Syracuse, New York-based YAPA full time. He started the business with a $14,000 bank loan and $35,000 in credit card debt. He quickly erased that, though, and has grown the organization by networking with wealthy businesspeople, who have invested $6 million in one year. Hess plans to raise $20 million through a private placement round of financing next summer and has offices in Philadelphia and New York City.

Pamela Rohland, a writer from Bernville, Pennsylvania, completes stories for Business Start-Ups and other national publications with assistance from her four cats.

Edition: June 2017

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