The Young Entrepreneurs Academy has kicked off again and it is both exciting and daunting. Â This 30-week program takes high school students through the entire process of creating a business. Â They start with idea generation, go through business planning, marketing planning, branding, networking, make a pitch to investors, participate in a trade show and launch their business (if they choose). Â This year we have 21 students enrolled. That is more than double last year! Â We also have over 50 business leaders in the community as volunteers. Â Amazing!
As a facilitator, my job is to make sure the classes are useful and they work through the process. Â It really isn’t that different than the work I do every day with my clients although I don’t generally get to have a group of clients all in one place. Classes are 3 hours a piece and occur every Wednesday night. It is a big time commitment.
So why do I do it? Â For one, I can. Â At some level I feel like I have a great deal of experience to share so why wouldn’t I? Â Another reason is I remember being 18 and walking into my first job. I had the added pressure of knowing my boss’ boss was my Dad so I had to do well. Â She was a lovely woman (Barbara Stone – if you are out there – THANK YOU!) who taught me there are right ways to do a job if you want to be a professional. Â I made mistakes of course and the wonderful people at that company allowed me to do so. Â I was able to work there for several years during college so I gained a lot of hands-on business experience before I hit the job market for real. Â Other people don’t get that experience and since I value it so much, I want to give others that chance.
Yet another reason is it forces me to work on my business. If I have a class where I need to talk about working your business plan so it is a living document, I don’t want to be a hypocrite! Â So I get out the business plan and make sure I’m on task, on track and doing what needs to be done. Â And then the students ask great questions (okay- not all the time, but you know). Â Answering those questions or better yet, having to find the answer to those questions gives me better ideas and new thoughts on how to run my business. I have definitely been a better business owner for being involved in this program.
The final reason is selfish. I get exposed to a number of businesses I wouldn’t otherwise. Â So it is definitely a part of my marketing strategy. Â I much prefer marketing in a way that benefits both myself and someone else. To me, that kind of marketing takes longer to give results but the results are deeper and stronger than any other. I like to believe people come to me having a clearer picture of what I can do and if there is a problem, feel more comfortable speaking up and having a conversation vs. just changing vendors. Â I have a couple clients that have moved parts of what I was doing with them to another vendor and those vendors have said they “took” my clients. In reality, we made those decisions together and chose to move those projects for strategic reasons – as a team. Because that’s what’s important to me with my clients. YEA gives me an opportunity to find new clients that way.
I’m writing this article because I was recently asked why I do YEA. Â Someone was talking about people who volunteer and I said I hadn’t gotten involved in things yet due to time issues. Â I was thinking about non-profits who are not business-focused like United Way or Feed Medina County. Â They laughed at me and asked about YEA and I realized that I didn’t look at it as strictly volunteering because it does benefit my business. Â So at the end of the day, I am a part of the YEA program because it is awesome. Â Want to come play too? Â Let me know!