By Anne Dewvall | June 11, 2014
There has never been a time in history where there were more demands for young peoples’ time: social media use topping 17 or 18 hours a day is just the beginning of the train of distractions that vies for students’ attention. Schools face a dichotomy between resource shortages and increased pressure to help kids be good at everything, from reading to math to financial literacy to the arts. So, it would be easy to dismiss youth entrepreneurship as one more burden on an overtaxed population. After all, you might reason that kids can be entrepreneurs when they are adults. But, before you write off youth entrepreneurship, read these five reasons why you should embrace youth entrepreneurship. Are you thinking lemonade stand? Stop.
1. Entrepreneurship teaches valuable skills.
Entrepreneurship teaches kids about planning, financial responsibility, supply and demand, the importance of relationships, and how to moderate risks. Youth entrepreneurship has been proven to improve academic performance, school attendance, interpersonal skills, job readiness, problem solving skills, and decision-making abilities.
2. Youth entrepreneurship is a safe place to experiment.
Youth entrepreneurship provides the perfect arena to experiment with career paths, business ideas, and self-identities. Wouldn’t you rather a child find out they don’t want to be a musician after experimenting with a music business for a youth entrepreneurship program instead of after accumulating $80,000 in student loans? Youth entrepreneurship is the mature equivalent of playing dress-up. Students can try on a lot of different options with little risk.
3. Entrepreneurship is a career path.
Students these days demonstrate strong interest in entrepreneurship not just as an alternative to traditional employment if times get tough but as a primary career objective before, during, and after college. While research findings on youth attitudes toward entrepreneurship differ, entrepreneurship is not disappearing as a career path and students should have the opportunity to explore that path while still in school.
4. Their business might succeed.
Although it’s easy to dismiss youth entrepreneurship as all play, many young students turn their ideas into successful businesses. Some of them even get bought or become huge financial successes. Isabella Weems co-founded the wildly successful multi-million dollar jewelry business Origami Owl when she was 14. British entrepreneur Fraser Doherty sells hundreds of thousands of jars of jam a year through his business SuperJam and commands 10% of the market share. Other young entrepreneurs have made their marks on the Internet, creating new websites, photo sharing tools, apps, and more. Young people can be successful business owners, creating jobs, adding wealth to their community, and gaining hands-on learning that could turn them into a high-powered serial entrepreneur in the future.
5. Entrepreneurship is inspiring.
In America, real wages for the majority of Americans have either stagnated or declined since 1968. Middle and upper class job opportunities for young people are shrinking at a time when more people than ever are graduating from college. Job security has all but vanished and the economy is uncertain. Entrepreneurship is a way for young people to take greater control of their lives and economic futures. In a world where nothing is certain, giving young people real tools to build their own future is pretty darn inspiring.
NetWork Kansas proudly supports youth entrepreneurship in Kansas. In 2014, we hosted a pilot program in northwestern Kansas for students in grades 7-12. Read about the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge here.