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"Entrepreneurship is the pursuit, creation and capture of extraordinary value"
–Daniel Isenberg, Professor of Management Practice, Babson Global

Interactive Entrepreneurship Education

Successful young entrepreneurship programs are built on a foundation of quality curriculum taught by teachers who engage students in the discovery and development of their entrepreneurial talents. We have found that teachers who have a family business background are often exceptional at conveying business concepts in ways that students can relate to.

This approach is also important because students who are really interested in entrepreneurship are almost by definition creative, hands-on learners who thrive in this type of learning environment.

I would be remise if I didn't also address a challenge that many rural schools face in not having the resources to dedicate an entire class to this subject. There is also the challenge of fitting Entrepreneurship into an already full schedule with required classes and electives for college-bound students.

Incorporating Entrepreneurship into an existing class such as Accounting, Industrial Arts or Consumer Science has been a solution to this constraint in many of the schools we work with. Other options have included after-school programs and entrepreneurship summer camps.

Supportive Community Environment

The most successful communities work in partnership with their school as a "learning laboratory", where students can practice the knowledge they are gaining in the classroom. This may involve apprenticeships, selling products at school events or farmers markets, interviewing local entrepreneurs or doing an entrepreneurial community service project.

Community leaders taking an interest in young entrepreneurs can change attitudes among young people about the community and their future. Many entrepreneurial youth express frustration that their community seems to only focus on exceptional students and star athletes. They also tell us, "There is nothing for us to do here."

Building relationships with students who want to get involved in the community, supporting their efforts, and celebrating their community and entrepreneurial projects can help them develop into productive citizens and also make your community more attractive to young people as a place to stay or return to, a win-win scenario!

Peer Networking

Just as with entrepreneurial adults, young entrepreneurs need a "place" to hang out with other kids that think the way they do. Fitting in is a big deal when you are a teenager. Young entrepreneurs know they think differently and that can cause them to go off somewhere by themselves to experiment with their ideas.

However, if you provide a space for them to interact with other young entrepreneurs they can feed off each other's energy and create even better ideas and inventions. This space may be a parent's garage, workroom or basement family room on Tuesday evenings with pizza and soda. Just provide a space, welcome them in and let them innovate and have fun!

Pathways from Education to Opportunity

Ultimately, successful communities help young entrepreneurs transition from the learning and experimentation process, to tangible business opportunities. This is a deliberate effort to help a young person clarify their goals, connect with opportunities that fit their passions and abilities, and staying with them as their enterprise develops.

This work may involve doing an inventory of soon-to-retire business owners looking to sell their business over the next several years. It may include help in writing a business plan or using an existing revolving loan fund to help a capable young person without equity or much cash get into business. Each young entrepreneur is unique. Finding out what help they need to move ahead and filling the gaps is the key.

In closing, I want to stress that to be truly successful with youth entrepreneurship, it must be incorporated as a priority within a community's economic development game plan Youth entrepreneurship requires a sustained effort as young people mature into adulthood, but the results can be significant and lasting.

An old adage says, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today!"

In this article, I would like to discuss four leading practices to help give your work with young entrepreneurs greater traction. These leading practices are gleaned from our fieldwork with rural communities, and include:

    • Interactive Entrepreneurship Education

    • Supportive Community Environment

    • Peer Networking

    • Pathways from Education to Opportunity

Let's look at each of these leading practices more closely below.

If you would like to schedule a time to visit about integrating youth entrepreneurship with your work, please contact Craig Schroeder at:

Four Keys to Youth Entrepreneurship