MOUNT PROSPECT -- Maddy Moloney, a recent graduate of Prospect High School, said she didn't know what to expect last year when she enrolled in the Young Entrepreneur's Academy run by the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce.

The YEA is designed to teach young people about what it means to start and run a business. Moloney said the program could not have worked any better for her.
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"It really opened my eyes to what business is," said Moloney, now a freshman at the University of Kansas. "What we did was so hands-on, and we got to meet so many great people. I'm so happy I did it."

Moloney, joined by fellow 2013 YEA graduates Jeff Blethen and Kyle Blatt, talked about the program during Thursday's Dynamic Year luncheon, an annual event hosted by the chamber. Dozens of business and civic leaders attended the event, which was both a celebration of 2013 and a look ahead at the year to come.

Moloney created a business called HomeBox, which prepares and sends care packages to college students, during her time in the YEA. Blethen and Blatt worked together to create ZzzSock, a kind of blanket/sleeping bag hybrid that slips over a dorm-room bed and then zips into place, eliminating the need to make the bed.

Dawn Fletcher Collins, the chamber's executive director, said the YEA was one of the big success stories of the past year. The 2014 edition of the program begins in about a week.

"I swear they'll be running Mount Prospect someday," she said of the three 2013 graduates.

The chamber on Thursday also honored business leaders working in Mount Prospect right now. Susan Dozier, a vice-president at American Chartered Bank, was named 2013's Business Leader of the Year; Vista Linda Eye Care was named Business of the Year; and Jeanine Molinelli of Hampton Inn & Suites was given the Chairman's Award.

The luncheon wasn't just about the past and present, though. Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek gave a talk in which she said the village's future looks bright. She pointed to the number of ribbon-cuttings she's attended in recent months, the number of inquiries the village receives from businesses interested in moving to town and the improvements that have already occurred at places like Randhurst Village and the downtown area.

"I'm buoyed by optimism," Juracek said, later adding, "We have a strong business climate here in Mount Prospect."