Tenth grader Markevia Thomas dreams about owning her own Kool-Aid pickle business. She loves the idea of selling pickles, but until this school year she did not know how to price her products to make a profit, how to assess demand or how to fund the startup of her business. That is where her Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) class at Premier High School of Fort Worth comes in. With the program’s guidance, she is getting ready to launch a real business.
YE is a national nonprofit organization founded by Liz Koch in 1991 to help students develop their own business ideas from a concept to the marketplace. North Texas native Grant Mankin has brought it to Dallas-Fort Worth high schools to help kids develop their own entrepreneurial mindset.
“We expect our students to come out with an understanding of economics, financial literacy, basic business knowledge and marketing, but we value higher their understanding of why those things can create value for others and therefore create value for themselves. It is all about solving problems for profit, whatever that profit may be,” said Mr. Mankin, the program’s North Texas regional director.
Markevia and the rest of the YE students will be testing their business ideas at TCU for Market Day in November.
From supply and demand, financing and building out a business plan to marketing, advertising and customer research, everything students learn in their YE class comes to play on market day. Students have to pitch a business idea supported by research to their teacher. If the teacher decides to accept their proposal, they receive a loan to finance their business. After market day, students pay back their loan and get to keep any profit they make.
“We are going to have to use some of our loan for marketing and advertising because Kool-Aid pickles aren’t a common snack, but I think we can be successful. I really like that I can test out my idea now and see what areas I need to work on for the future,” said Markevia.
“Grant and the YE team can change the way students look at what’s possible. It opens up their imaginations so they can think about how to create things of value for other people. Some may go into business. Others might not. But they will all possess a new outlook about what they can accomplish,” said Mike Terry, VP of Communications for ResponsiveEd.
Tammy Jones, the YE and CTE teacher at Premier High School of Fort Worth, believes the program empowers students.
“YE makes classwork real to students and it challenges them to problem solve. This program gives them freedom and a future. It is not, ‘this is what I want you to do’, but ‘what do you want to do and what steps do you need to take to get there?’” she said.
After students complete the YE class they can participate in summer internships with local companies and small businesses. YE continues to encourage its students with participation-based scholarships and grants through Youth Entrepreneurs Academy, their alumni program.
But before Markevia can think about the alumni program she’ll need to see if she can get a crowd of TCU students to buy her pickles first.
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