One of the most frequent questions I get about youth entrepreneurship is, “How do I start a youth entrepreneurship program?”
People would find me on the internet from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Small Business Development Center Youth Entrepreneur Camp page where I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run the youth entrepreneur camp for the past 10 years.
This one question came to me so often that I started looking at what resources were out there to help others to do just this. I found out there really wasn’t much out there and that’s when the entrepreneur in me saw a problem that needed solving. I wanted to help others to have the same rewarding experience of seeing kids come in on a Monday, shy and timid and by Friday, ready to go out and start their own business. Many kids who didn’t excel in a traditional school setting were utilizing their skills and passions to start something they felt made a difference. That is when I started Eseedling, LLC and wrote More Than a Lemonade Stand (and created the Curriculum to go with it) so that I could help others start their own youth entrepreneur programs or implement entrepreneurship into their existing programs.
Planning is most likely the number 1 thing that will help make your youth entrepreneurship program a success.
You will need to start planning 6-12 months ahead. Just as you plan any large-scale event; you need to choose a date, secure a venue, create a budget, hire staff, buy supplies and promote the event. You can download the complete checklist that we use for our youth entrepreneur camp for free at: https://eseedling.com/organizations/ . The checklist is also available in the More Than a Lemonade Stand book.
Here are 10 steps to jump start your success in starting a Youth Entrepreneurship Program:
- Choose a Camp or Program Name, Logo and Branding – Just as a business needs a name and branding, so does your youth entrepreneur camp/program. This can be as simple as your organization name and branding with youth entrepreneur program, biz camp or something similar. If your organization doesn’t already have their own colors and branding, you should think about what emotion and image you want to portray.
- Reserve a Venue – If you don’t already have a space to hold your program, you will need to reserve a space to hold it. In addition to size, you will need to think about things like how accessible it is for your audience, is there parking or a drop-off/pick-up area, what audio-visual and furniture is available, and of course the cost.
- Price the Youth Entrepreneur Program and Start Promoting – You will need to know what your budget is so that you can figure out how to price the youth entrepreneur program. Once you have a venue, you will have an idea of that cost, you will want to decide how long your program is, look at the cost to staff it, decide if you are going to include meals and refreshments and what the material costs are. You will also want to look at what competitive programs are priced at so you have an idea of what they are charging. Once you know these, you can figure out if want to make a profit and then calculate what you need to charge for your program. You may need to find a sponsor, if you don’t have a big enough budget. There is a sponsor sheet included in the More Than a Lemonade Stand Book. You will also want to start promoting the program several months before it starts. It is beneficial to create a brochure or promotional piece to distribute to schools, libraries, customers, etc. Be sure to include dates, times, location, pricing, how to register and contact information. If you have a website, you should put the information on your website.
- Find & Hire Staff – Once you have your budget determined, you will know what you can pay staff. The number of staff needed will depend on the age and number of kids. A good rule of thumb is 1 adult per 8 kids (unless they are younger than elementary school age). It is always good to have at least 2 adults. Each state has their own requirements, so you should check the requirements for your specific state. One thing to keep in mind is that it is advantageous to have staff members who have worked with kids and enjoy it. Always make sure to have a background check completed of the staff. Your Human Resources department should be able to assist with this. You may also want to see if area entrepreneurs or local experts in the fields you are teaching are willing to volunteer their time to teach. I have found many are very excited that you are teaching young entrepreneurs and are willing to donate their time to teach content in their area of expertise.
- Decide on the Content – You will need to decide what you want the kids to learn during your youth entrepreneur program. Do you want them to start a business while they are learning about entrepreneurship or do you only want an overview and expose to what an entrepreneur is and the entrepreneurial mindset? Once you make the decisions of the learning objectives, then you can decide if you want to create your own curriculum or use one that already exists. For example you can check out more info about our curriculum on the More Than a Lemonade Stand curriculum page.
- Check on insurance coverage – You will need to check with your organization to see if they have insurance to cover a youth event. If not, contact your insurance agent and explain what you are doing, and they will recommend the coverage you need.
- Purchase Materials – If you watch for sales at office supplies stores (back to school is perfect), you can purchase the materials for your youth entrepreneur program at lower cost. You may also want to order t-shirts, so be sure to order them in advance also.
- Train Staff – When you get closer to the start of the program, you will need to make sure you have your staff trained on the content they are teaching and any rules they need to follow when working with the kids. You may also want to have some or all of the staff trained in first aid and CPR.
- Register Students and have them Complete the necessary forms – You will need to have a system for registering students, collecting their monies and collecting the necessary forms for the program. At minimum, you will need health forms, media release forms and liability release forms. You will also want to check for food allergies, especially if you are providing food. You can check with your organization to see if they have forms you can use. If not, there are sample forms included in the More Than a Lemonade Stand Book.
- Prep Materials and Confirm Attendance – The last few things to do are copying all the materials and confirm time and attendance with the parents of the kids.
These 10 items are a snapshot of the items you need to complete to start a youth entrepreneur program. If you follow these steps, it will save you a lot of headaches from learning the hard way. These steps are taken from the More Than a Lemonade Stand Book which includes a much more detailed description of the steps. The complete checklist can be downloaded for free from the eseedling website.
If you would like help with starting your own youth entrepreneur program; we are here to help. Complete the Get Started form on the eseedling site and we’ll set up a call to help you with your specific needs!