Youth Entrepreneurship Programs: Our Nation Needs More Mentors

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

As our nation grows increasingly more aware of the need for more small business enterprises, we must also strongly consider and realize the need to educate and empower our youth to consider careers as small business owners. If the goals of many of our children are to gain ‘riches’ and become financially wealthy, then why not show them how to do the work and put in the time to earn the lifestyle they so desire legally and ethically? Instead of raising our children to “go to school then get a job”, why not teach them to “start a business while going to school, build that business, and hire within your community”? If we want school and the dreaded subjects of Math, Economics, English, and History to become more relevant in their lives then we must show them the connection between these subjects and their future as brilliant and innovative entrepreneurs; or if they choose, well-rounded and deeply passionate employees that thrive as servant-leaders for a small or large organization. But they need to see it to believe it. They need to see how to make money with dignity, and legally. They need to see how excelling (or pushing for better than average) in math, economics, English, and history can help them as business owners or managers of an organization.

Students as early as the age of 9 can conceive of saving their money, starting a micro-enterprise such as a lemonade stand, lawn care service, pet-sitting service, babysitting service, etc, and watching their money grow as business owners. These same students, when mentored properly, can also learn how to pay themselves,  invest portions of their revenue, build relationships with potential investors and partners, and grow their business to a level that could help pay towards their college living expenses or tuition. This is possible, and sharing this possibility with a tween and teen could open their eyes to the realities that they don’t have to wait to reach adulthood to become an entrepreneur. Why can’t a 16-or-17-year-old provide social media training for micro-businesses or local, stay-at-home parents? Who spends the bulk of their days on the Internet? Teens.

Why can’t a 10-year-old learn how to purchase, set pricing, and market do-dads, novelty supplies, and the like to their peers, like I did in sixth grade? I was 10-years-old and mastered the concepts of the “mark-up” and excellent customer service. Why can’t a 15-year-old partner with some friends and offer a weekly at-home car wash service to neighbors, allowing you and I to have our cars washed in our driveways? Why can’t a 17-year-old start their own tutoring service specializing in one or more subjects and marketing their services to and through local churches, youth centers, and K-12 schools? Why can’t a high school student market their services as a typist or desktop publishing provider to assist those who need help with document preparation, flyer creation, etc?  They can. They just need the how-to information, tools, good mentoring, and lots of encouragement, to take the risk and give it a whirl.

I read a very interesting article written by Cyndia Zwahlen on July 18, 2011 for the Los Angeles Times, that shared the story of entrepreneurship programs for the youth that are taking off and helping tons of youngsters across the nation. We need more of these programs. We need more businesses, business owners, and organizational leaders willing to take our youth under our wings and empower them to help rebuild and reshape our nation. It’s not just our educational system that needs a booster shot…everyone knows we desperately need that. But what we also need is a booster shot to our economy; we need jobs; we need a sense of stability in unstable times because things won’t stabilize overnight (it wasn’t overnight that things got messy, and it definitely wasn’t the fault of our current White House administration). Our nation’s economic growth and competitive advantage over the rest of the world will only continue to be made possible with an increase in small business development. Our country became a powerhouse mostly because of small business (we don’t need to delve into the historical growth and divide-and-conquer strategies of this nation. That’s for another post on my personal blog). Our nation will only be rejuvenated through small business (job creation, manufacturing and exporting of goods and services, etc.), and it will only thrive with the help of small business (and a consumer focus on buying U.S. brands first, and a business-focus on working with U.S. companies and hiring U.S. citizens/residents first).

What could you teach our youth about entrepreneurship, leadership, and effectively managing and running a business? Consider mentoring one today!

To read Cyndia Zwahlen’s article in its entirety, visit the L.A. Times website here.

 

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. Foreman & Associates, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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