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Teaching Our Students About Entrepreneurship

January 8, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
The jobs aren’t always here for our kids.

If they are, many can be “under-quality” opportunities meaning they take a job that they are over-qualified for or find they are working in a different industry at lesser pay.

Learning small business skills can be useful tools regardless of whether one becomes an entrepreneur or not.

It sharpens persuasive writing skills (asking someone to take action on something you are selling), understanding basic and real-life math (balancing a checkbook and learning to spend on a budget) and being able to plan. It can also help with being responsible for one’s own actions and self-reliance.

New Opportunities?

If some of the projects being mentioned in the region come to fruition, there will be new opportunities.

These opportunities however, are not regulated to only “jobs.” Small business sub-contracting and outsourcing is big business.

Our Adirondack economy is small business based more so than most places in the country.

Do we need to keep in mind that a key part of the Adirondack spirit is self-determination and a strong sense of independence? We don’t play well together sometimes because we recognized a long time ago, if you want survive in this seasonal economic climate, you need to rely foremost on yourself to get things done.

Kids & Biz

So while we are thinking about jobs, should we also acknowledge new small business opportunities?

With all of these new opportunities, is it a good time to consider a broader focus on what we can do to foster entrepreneurship in our “new economy”? Should we strengthen entrepreneurial learning at a high school and college level here in the Adirondacks? Could this be one more way to keep our kids here?

If we are, there are a whole slew of “youth entrepreneurship” programs out there that could partner with our high schools, colleges and community.

New World

Like all the other changes we have seen in business and community development, there is a whole new world of entrepreneurial learning.

It is not just the typical internships restricted to college students but continuing educational opportunities for adults and entrepreneurs themselves to interactive high school programs. These initiatives build on community and education partnerships not only on a local level but national and international levels.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have as a goal to become a national model for youth entrepreneurship? It is possible! Innovative small business programs that I was a part as an economic development practitioner won national and state recognition. We can do the same for youth entrepreneurship.


So what might be some of the different “youth entrepreneurship” initiatives that may expand some of our current efforts?

Leadership Institutes for Entrepreneurship

These are often hosted by colleges in conjunction with the business community. These are typically a couple of days or a week long.

Don’t think of it as just a series of lectures for students.

For example, Susquehanna University’s “Leadership Institute for Entrepreneurship” includes the “challenges of running your own (virtual) business by acquiring seed money, hiring personnel, paying bills, managing inventory and developing or selling the company.” Students work with “…faculty and nationally recognized entrepreneurs…” according to their brochure.

Youth Entrepreneurship

National and International foundations are another great resource to partner with here as a region. I had the good fortune to work with several of these including a renowned leader in entrepreneurial education, the Kauffman Foundation's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

These are not only a source of funding for any innovative “Adirondack Youth Entrepreneurial Initiatives” we may create; perhaps more importantly there is a wealth of model programs to utilize.

For example, the Sundance Family Foundation website has a section called “Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE).” Their YSE Resources page lists several interesting initiatives including:

• “The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education” They provide information on a “Standards Toolkit” for entrepreneurial education and suggestions for teaching activities to make these programs “interesting and memorable through active participation in the learning process.”

• “The “E” in Me – The Entrepreneur in You” This is a “multimedia contextual learning program on entrepreneurship” designed for high school students “from the Agency for Instructional Technology (AIT) and the Kauffman Foundation's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “

Even the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a “Teen Website” according to the YSE Resource page. The site is “designed to introduce young entrepreneurs to the concept of small business ownership as a viable career choice.”

Adirondack Youth Entrepreneurial Initiative”?

The secret to success to a broader “youth entrepreneurial initiative” may be to “Adirondack-ize” it and involve a partnership of business, educational, economic and community development organizations, foundations and state and federal resources such as the Small Business Development Centers.

We should first determine what we are currently doing through these resources and then agree that our Adirondack economy is not only about creating jobs but offering new entrepreneurial opportunities.

Further encouraging these opportunities at a young age may be one more important way to keep our youth here.


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