Growing our own – Fostering youth entrepreneurship

Growing our own – Fostering youth entrepreneurship

To build a viable, dynamic and sustainable culture of entrepreneurship in Wisconsin, we need to include programs and opportunities for our youth. Stimulating the entrepreneurial fire in our youth helps to position the state for future growth, while creating immediate opportunities for youth to thrive in business and in our communities.
In Wisconsin a variety of youth entrepreneurship programs for K-12 students are provided by Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Girl Scouts, UW Extension, community business centers, school districts like the Business Education Partnership in the Madison School District, and individual classes or modules within school curriculums. These programs equip young people with the tools they need to be successful whether they choose to start a business, go on for further education or take a position in an organization.
In June the UW-Madison SBDC held its ninth week-long Youth Entrepreneur Camp with 31 middle school students. The Camp’s 40-hour entrepreneur program curriculum incorporates a variety of educational training techniques including classroom instruction, interactive activities, computer lab and field trips to local businesses. This hands-on learning experience is designed to guide program participants to become future small businesses owners.
Similar programs around the state use interactive lessons and exercises to teach participants real-world business skills: team building, leadership development, financial management, verbal communication and business etiquette. Participants also learn how to successfully negotiate for business materials, set goals and recognize real business opportunities.
Can these types of programs really make a difference? It did for Ashutosh Gupta, a graduate of UW-Madison SBDC Youth Entrepreneur Camp. In 2007 Gupta was named one of the Top 25 U.S. Entrepreneurs under 25 years old by Business Week magazine. The October 2007 Business Week article states:

“In middle school, India native Ashutosh Gupta wasn’t overly enthusiastic when his mother sent him to a small-business development camp at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. But he liked entrepreneurship, and it became a constant theme throughout high school. He’s now back at the school as an undergraduate earning his BBA in entrepreneurship and finance. From January to July, 2007, Gupta says he ran an online broadcasting business called that fizzled after he had differences in opinion about its future with his partner. In July, Gupta started a new business, Gupta Financial Consulting, which draws on his experience running Inzum to do management consulting for small businesses.”

Since then Gupta attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is now an MBA graduate. He has returned to the youth camp as a guest speaker.
The benefits to students of youth entrepreneurship programs are broad. A press release from the Wis. Department of Public Instruction Entrepreneurship Task Force, formed in January, states:

“Research indicates that more than 70 percent of American high school students have expressed interest in owning their own business. Additionally, educators have found that entrepreneurship training encourages students to use sophisticated mathematics and science concepts in real-life situations, improving academic performance. And, at its most basic level, students enrolled in entrepreneurship education programs have better attendance, are less likely to drop out, and show more ambitious goals for life after high school.”

If you are interested in supporting youth entrepreneurship, contact the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN) to help find a program in your area.

Barry Roberts, Education Program Manager, UW-Madison Small Business Development Center, is a partner in the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network. WEN was established in 2005 to provide seamless access to the statewide network of entrepreneurial resources and expertise to create new ventures; help grow existing business, and move forward high potential entrepreneurs to enable Wisconsin to be competitive in a global economic environment.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.