If we invest in teaching young entrepreneurs we can help our small towns survive and even thrive.

If you look down the Main Street of any small town across the country, you will see that small local entrepreneurs make up the majority of businesses. They have passion for what they do, they are resilient during tough times and they contribute more to the economy then big business. In the U.S. there are 28 million small businesses that make up 54% of all U.S. Sales (Source: SBA.gov).  But there is a bigger issue right now and that is the changing of the generations!

11,000 people a day are reaching age 65
(Source: social security administration)

With 11,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day we need to have a plan in place to continue these small businesses that make our communities thrive!  Of course, because of better health care and longer lives some are working past 65 but we still need to get the next generation up and running before it’s too late. By teaching young entrepreneurs, we can help build a workforce that will be ready to take over the existing businesses in our community or start new ones.

There are 2 more issues that are causing problems with Main Street Succession plans.

  • Only 45% of new businesses survive the first 5 years (Source: Kaufmann Foundation for Entrepreneurship).
  • Schools are not preparing kids for the business world. Kids have so much pressure to go to a 4 year college and it is so competitive that they are spending their time taking honors classes so that they can get into the college of their choice that they don’t have time for business electives.

Your community can be part of the solution by proactively providing programs that are teaching young entrepreneurs how to start and run businesses. 

What are the benefits of teaching young entrepreneurs?

  • By teaching young entrepreneurs you are helping kids realize that entrepreneurship is viable career option which increases the chances that they may start a business of their own.
  • Helping develop The Next Gen of entrepreneurs helps build a pipeline for your Main Street Succession Plan.
  • Providing a young entrepreneur program that involves existing entrepreneurs in your community will educate the families on the existing businesses and the economic development challenges the community faces; deepening the connection and engagement with parents and kids in your community.
  • By asking entrepreneurs to be a guest speaker, provide a field trip location for the program, or even become a mentor; you will be building community between businesses and the families in your community.
  • Providing a youth entrepreneurship opportunity in your community can connect school learning to the real world. This gives kids who might not otherwise see a purpose in what they are learning become more motivated to succeed both academically and personally.

So how does our community get started teaching young entrepreneurs?

  • You need a champion – you need someone that wants to take teaching young entrepreneurs on as an initiative. It might be one person or a group of people – but without that push it probably won’t take root.
  • Decide what type of program you want to hold. You can start out as simple as a one day entrepreneurship day (could even work with the school), to a day camp, an after-school or Saturday morning program.  Then schedule and reserve a venue.
  • Determine your goals when teaching young entrepreneurs including the number of kids, time frame, what you want to teach them and what is their end product (For example in our basic program our end products are an oral presentation to the class, a poster presentation to friends and family and a lemonade stand that raises funds for the youth entrepreneurship scholarship fund).
  • Find the tools you want to use and what your budget is to spend. The good news is there are tools out there for use and some of them are free.
    1. The SBA.gov website has an entire section dedicated to Young Entrepreneurs https://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/young-entrepreneurs
    2. There are several free downloads on the eseedling website including a free teacher’s toolkit on the Teacher page, a free program planning checklist on the Organizations page, and a free e-book on Starting and running a lemonade stand on the Blog page (in addition to a free resource page).
    3. You can also check out the More Than a Lemonade Stand youth entrepreneur curriculum and Biz Ops Game that I have used with over 500 kids ages 9 -14 and is now being used in 16 states and 7 countries.
  • Find instructors; once you know what you want to teach and what tools you are going to use, you need to find instructors. The good news is there are probably business owners who would love to help by teaching young entrepreneurs.  Ask them if they would like to teach a short lesson on a business topic.  Or you may want to hire an instructor at least for the first year.
  • Market to your community. Luckily filling a youth entrepreneur program has never been an issue for me and I’m sure it won’t be for you either. Most schools will allow you to create fliers that they can hand out. Local grocery stores and libraries had bulletin boards to post and the chamber usually has a newsletter that will post it for you.

Most of all, Have FUN!  Teaching young entrepreneurs for past 10 years has been a wonderful and rewarding experience.  It’s a fun way to teach kids about business and you will be amazed at what the kids come up with and how much they can learn in just a short period of time.

If you are still hesitant about starting a program, I would love to answer any questions you might have.  You can contact me at juliewood@eseedling.com.

Julie Ann Wood has been teaching kids about entrepreneurship for over 10 years, she has created the More Than a Lemonade Stand curriculum and the Biz Ops Game to help others integrate entrepreneurship and business in their programs. In addition, she is the director of the Youth Entrepreneur Camp at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Small Business Development Center and runs E-seedling, LLC specializing in cultivating tomorrow’s entrepreneurs through training, consulting, youth entrepreneur camps, tools and curriculum. To learn more visit www.eseedling.com