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Alumni Spotlight: Meet Cody Hanna

Youth Entrepreneurs alum Cody Hanna recently completed his freshman year at Kansas State University, majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship. While many of his peers will be relaxing over the summer or working a short-term summer job, Cody is busy running his own business, Victory Pyrotechnics. Meet Cody Hanna.

As a YE student: At the beginning of YE,  Cody remembers being terrified of public speaking. But YE quickly provided an opportunity to overcome that fear. “I had to learn to portray myself in a positive way,” Cody says. “For so long I was scared of public speaking, but I’ve seen myself grow in it over the years.”

Developing a business plan: During his YE class at his alma mater, Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Kan., Cody and his classmates created and pitched business plans. He was already thinking about fireworks and pyrotechnics back then, and today he is using parts of that same plan to run a successful business. 

Victory Pyrotechnics: Cody’s business just landed its biggest contract yet — the Independence Day fireworks display for his hometown of Clearwater. It takes an incredible number of hours and people to pull off large fireworks displays, and he’s working hard to make the 4th of July very special for his town. “It takes work every day. We use computers to coordinate music [with the fireworks], and one show is 48 hours of work just on the programming alone.” It also took $20,000 in equipment to get his business up and running, and so instead of hiring employees, he’s using sound judgment by focusing on paying off the debt and finding local volunteers to help him with the shows. 

A young business: It hasn’t been easy for Cody to win work with his new business, as fireworks companies aren’t scarce, and towns like Clearwater might have partnered with the same company for decades. But in YE, Cody learned about added value, and knew he needed something to set Victory Pyrotechnics apart. So he added lights and laser shows to his offerings, something that a lot of companies in Kansas don’t do. 

His YE mindset-shift moment: Cody says that YE taught him the every day aspects of running a business, and it revealed to him that entrepreneurship was a path he wanted to follow. When he started YE, he wasn’t even very interested in entrepreneurship, but it ended up being his favorite class. “Before YE, I had no interest in being my own boss. But I ended up taking it into the real world and it’s had a huge impact on me.” 

Before YE, I had no interest in being my own boss. But I ended up taking it into the real world and it’s had a huge impact on me.

His YE passion: “I love all of the events, the networking aspect of YE, meeting people and learning from them and their mistakes.” Through YE trips and speakers visiting his school, Cody gained knowledge from entrepreneurs who shared their mistakes and successes. He’s continued to travel with YE as an alum, visiting organizations and corporations around the country, and even creating connections for future internships. 

What’s next: Focusing on his business this summer, Cody’s already looking forward to summer internships beginning after his sophomore year and hopes that those will ultimately lead to a full-time job after college. In the meantime, he’s trying to balance his busy life as a young entrepreneur.

Explore more alumni mindset shifts on the YE blog.