Teaching entrepreneurship to kids!!! What do you think?
In Austin, people stroll the aisles between 110 booths manned by 230 local kid entrepreneurs who will sell to about 2,300 customers. The sellers are kids as young as 5 years old.
We’re at the Pease Mansion where Jeff Sandefer, a billionaire Texas oilman, and his wife started the Acton Children’s Business Fair, a series of events where kids aged 5 to 15 spend half a day selling goods and services they create.
There is expected to be 50 affiliated Children’s Business Fairs in the U.S. this year, all created by word of mouth. Across the U.S., a nascent movement is educating kids in entrepreneurship.
In Austin alone, there are foundations, afterschool programs, summer programs, high school classes, and more. This month, South by Southwest will feature multiple sessions about youth entrepreneurship and a youth startup pitch competition.
One of Austin’s most ambitious programs is the nation’s first K-12 public school entrepreneurship track. The program culminates in an incubator class in which teams of students launch businesses and compete for funding, followed by an accelerator class in which they run the businesses.
The program, now in its second year, created a nonprofit, INCubatoredu, to license its incubator-class curriculum to schools around the country, and more than 60 schools in 13 states have signed up.
The reality is that work has changed. We all must become entrepreneurs, or at least like entrepreneurs. The jobs of the new economy are ones where you have to be entrepreneurial. By the year 2020, 40 percent of the jobs will be entrepreneurial in nature. The factory-style education system doesn’t prepare kids for that environment. The question is whether entrepreneurship and the traits that underpin successful entrepreneurs can be learned?
Of course, the students at Acton come from households that push them to achieve. Though the Children’s Business Fair is open to all kids, the efforts aren’t reaching a huge chunk of underprivileged communities. If youth entrepreneurship education aims to help a generation navigate a new world, it will need to go a lot wider.
Across town, David Crockett High School houses 1,500 primarily Hispanic and lower-income students. Less than a decade ago, it was in danger of being shut down. In 2008, the district hired a young principal from New York City and since then the school has become a celebrated success with the launch of the Student Inc program two years ago, Crockett has emerged as a model for other local schools. Their year will culminate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition to score $2,500 grants from a local VC firm; next year, they’ll run their companies in an accelerator class.
Student Inc. begins in elementary school with a program called Microsociety, in which the whole school runs a mock small town complete with businesses and government agencies, and holds regular market days in which the town comes to life. In middle school, kids on the entrepreneurship track run an on-campus store that sells school-spirit gear such as T-shirts and beanies.
One of the biggest tasks is lighting a fire under all of the groups, but ultimately it comes down to that underlying drive: It’s easy to be a wantrepreneur, but it takes a special kind of student to make that leap.
But, it is certainly on the right track. If I offer you two kids. one graduates with top grades, has a lot of book knowledge, and knows how to score an A on a test. The other has built a business and maybe broke even on it, knows how to go out and hustle, did a couple of internships, and has a growing network. You’re an employer. Which one do you want to hire?
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