I believe that children are the future… That might be the old school way to set the stage for this post, but I’m going with something a little more modern. So, paraphrasing the words that have become the soundtrack for a generation: They are young; let’s help them set the world on fire and glow brighter than the sun.
Because, why not? No one is going to make a case for hampering the creativity, vision, and energy of the youthful entrepreneur.
And mark my words, today’s youth is a force to be reckoned with, harnessed, and empowered. Look at these achievers: They dress better than
I we did at their age (an ultra-hip Threadless tee and shoes via Zappos vs. a flannel, dumpy jeans, and skate shoes). They have the power of information (aka the internet and mobile) in the palms of their hands. They eat multi-tasking for breakfast and treat every day like Earth Day. If they don’t like something, they recreate it for themselves, better. They’re artists, designers, engineers, crafters, coders, and – oh yeah – high schoolers.
That’s right, teenagers. With their whole lives ahead of them, energy, enthusiasm, bright intelligence, hope for the future… and vision.
A recent Gallup poll of 70,000 U.S. 5th through 12th graders showed that 77% of students said that they want to be their own boss, 45% plan to start their own business, and 42% believed they would, “invent something that changes the world.” Heck yeah!
And the examples of young entrepreneurs impacting the way the world operates seems to grow daily. Zappos, mentioned above for outfitting this force of up-and-coming entrepreneurs, was founded by Nick Swinmurn when he was in his twenties. Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, founders of the innovative t-shirt company Threadless, were barely out of their teens when they founded the enterprise. The list goes on, including popular online apps that I, personally, use ALL THE TIME (ha!) like Hootsuite (founded by Ryan Holmes) and Paperless Post (founded by siblings Alexa and Hirschfeld). What would the world be without the innovation of youth?
Ok, I’m Sold on These Upstarts and Their Awesomeness. So, How Can I Help?
Investing in an organization that supports youth entrepreneurship (by giving your time, resources, and/or money) is a great way to start. The following list of organizations are currently making a big difference by helping youth-driven startups launch themselves to greatness:
- Enactus brings together students, academics, and business leaders to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need
- Regional and city-specific non-profits often have youth entrepreneurship-focused programs and events (ex. Philadelphia’s Empowerment Group and Cambridge’s Possible Project)
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the U.S. have youth entrepreneurship programs (ex. California’s YEP) that you can support
- Colleges offer events, programs, and camps to support youth entrepreneurs (ex. Concordia University’s Teen Entrepreneur Academy)
- The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Teen Business Link provides valuable resources to help young entrepreneurs start, grow, and own their business
- The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) allows successful entrepreneurs to give back to aspiring entrepreneurs through its nonprofit mentorship programs
Many of these programs also offer young entrepreneurs the opportunity to boost their vision with youth focused business planning competitions. We’re pretty excited about that fact that we’re currently sponsoring the BEC Boost the first statewide business planning competition for California residents which includes two youth tracks (14-17 and 18-27) as well as an opportunity for competitors aged 28 and up. Universities (including Florida Atlantic and Clarkson) and local non-profits (like TiE Vancouver) often host these competitions for their communities as well and if your local community, university, or alma mater doesn’t already, maybe it’s time for you to start something!
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