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Alumni Spotlight: Meet J.D. Young

YE alum J.D. Young is the proud owner of a growing shaved ice empire: Funky Monkeys Shaved Ice. “Because of the knowledge I gained in YE, today I’m years ahead of where I would have been.” Hear J.D.’s entrepreneurship story.

As a YE student: J.D. Young was a senior at Dodge City High School when he took the Youth Entrepreneurs class, the first year the course was offered at his school. “That was where I fell in love with entrepreneurship,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be my own boss, and so I absolutely loved the class.”

His YE mindset-shift moment: “One thing I took away from YE is that we should not be afraid to fail. Youth Entrepreneurs offered lots of trial and error activities — calculating the cost of an item, for example, seeing what you’d want to sell it at, and then testing it. We were taught that it’s okay to fail, move forward and then try again.” 

Career path: A scholarship launched his studies at Wichita State University. From there, he worked quite a few jobs, from managing restaurants to selling cars. J.D. seized the opportunity to partner in a health cafe inside the downtown Wichita YMCA. “It was a small cafe, but we did very well. We ran the cafe seven days a week, anywhere from 12-18 hours a day,” he says. The hours were draining, but business was booming. “I learned the ups and downs of what it’s really like to run a business.”

His move into shaved ice: Fast forward to a vacation in California, where J.D. found his inspiration for his next venture — shaved ice. Back in Wichita, he took out a loan to purchase a shaved ice trailer and named his business Funky Monkeys Shaved Ice. “The first year was a complete failure,” J.D. recalls. “I was losing money pretty badly. I was about to give up and sell it, but I stuck with it.” His persistence paid off when he chose a different location in year two. Not only was he able to pay off all his debt in a few months, he had also earned enough to purchase a mobile shaved ice truck for on-site parties.

Funkey Monkey’s and Funkey Monkeys 21+: Just this year, J.D. launched a new shaved ice concepts, Funkey Monkeys 21+. The boozy versions of his shaved ice treats have been a big hit. “Business is going well today!” he says. Of all his YE lessons, the one he relies on most now is the value of trial and error. “We learned in YE to try something, and if it doesn’t work, try something else until you find what works. That’s what I do with my marketing promotions. It’s a learning experience every day for sure.”
His YE passion: “YE is doing such a good job in providing students with knowledge they can use in real life. Even if they don’t go into their own business, they still have the skill set they need for any job. The YE philosophy is on point,” J.D. smiles.