“A lot of kids would like to start their own business of one kind or another, but they don’t know how. Most schools don’t teach it.” So says Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune and essayist of THESE KIDS MEAN BUSINES$. The documentary premieres on PBS Thursday, August 30, 2007, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Centered on budding entrepreneurs across the country and the programs created to foster their interest and understanding of the free market, THESE KIDS MEAN BUSINES$ tells the tale of underserved youth creating and living their own versions of the American success story.
In the course of the documentary, viewers meet young entrepreneurs such as Eric and Derrick, 16-year-old twins in urban Milwaukee, as they promote their thriving lawn-care business; Laima, age 16, who makes sure her Web site development company in New York City doesn’t sacrifice good design and aesthetics for the latest special effects; and, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, David Lawson of Wise County, Virginia, who began converting six acres of his family property to a vineyard after completing a high school entrepreneurship class several years ago.
“I got a first-hand knowledge of writing a business plan, and it opened me up to the idea that it wasn't necessarily a college-get-a-job market,” says David Lawson. “There might be opportunities outside of just getting to college and working for somebody. I've always wanted to be able to work for myself and be my own boss, but I wasn't sure exactly how I could do that.” David’s elective entrepreneurship class was through an organization called Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning, otherwise known as REAL. “This class was a good introduction for me to realize that it's not so complicated in some respects to start your own business.”
Additional young entrepreneurs profiled include: a student-managed salad dressing company, Food From the ‘Hood, which was born in the aftermath of the 1992 riots in South Los Angeles; a 7th grader who designs inspirational picture frames and artwork; and a student-owned snack vending machine business.
“The old thinking figured kids were too young to learn about entrepreneurship. The new thinking sees entrepreneurship as a healthy remedy for classroom boredom, restless energies and high dropout rates,” says Clarence Page in THESE KIDS MEAN BUSINES$.
The stories in the documentary come from many parts of the country: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; South Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Chicago, Illinois; Wise County, Virginia; and New York City, New York. Among the organizations featured in the program are the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, REAL Enterprises, Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Entrenuity, and the C. E. O. Academy.
In 1987, Steve Mariotti founded the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) with the mission of teaching low-income youth how to start and manage small businesses. “I think it's very important to start as young as possible,” explains Mariotti. “We start at the age of 11 and we are thinking about even moving down to the age of seven. The sooner a young person starts to train their mind to think entrepreneurially, to look for business opportunities, to think about budgeting and planning, to think about marketing and sales, and so that it's incorporated into one's very intellectual being, I think it's very, very positive.”
What do these diverse youngsters from very different parts of the country have in common? They're part of a quiet revolution that's been growing in recent years. Each of them has learned how to start up, own, and operate their own business.
Syndicated Columnist, Chicago Tribune
Academic experts interviewed in the documentary comment on their extensive research, which indicates that entrepreneurship education has a positive effect on the academic performance of at-risk students — as well as affecting attitude and behavior. Featured scholars are Andrew B. Hahn, Ph.D., Professor, Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University; and Howard S. Rasheed, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cameron School of Business, University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
“Entrepreneurship projects are, first and foremost, experiential education; they fill a vacuum that many young people feel that they need,” says Professor Hahn. “And they’re voting with their feet. They’re leaving school in droves, if you look at the dropout rate. And the principal reason for the dropout rate, according to research we and others have done, is that kids just don’t like the regimentation of school. And they’re crying out for experiential learning opportunities.”
“What we are trying to do with Youth Entrepreneurship is bridge the gap. Teach [students] life long skills, understanding the business concepts and economic processes, so that they can create, as opposed to be part of, a work force,” comments Dr. Rasheed. “So we're not really training students to become consumers, or employees. We're training them to be employers, and economic creators.”
Also interviewed is Cathy Ashmore, executive director of the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. “The rationale behind having young people begin to develop those experiences, is the high motivation we see as a result of being involved in those programs,” says Dr. Ashmore. “To find out that you have opportunities is a whole new message to so many young people. And to actually experience the process for doing it, so that you feel empowered to go out there and do it sometime in your life.”
In addition, life-long educator Rudy Crew, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, talks about his plans to include entrepreneurship education as part of his secondary school reform policy. “We’re realizing that Miami Public Schools is the centerpiece of the economy for this entire region,” says Dr. Crew. “And to that extent, entrepreneurship has to be a part of the curriculum. We really do believe that how students make sense out of their world, how they actualize and realize their own dreams and goals by being participants in that world at an early age, all have a lot to do with their ability to be very successful later in life.”
Clarence Page concludes THESE KIDS MEAN BUSINES$: “Even if these ambitious young entrepreneurs don’t launch their own company right away, they walk away with skills, values and experiences that can help them in other ways for the rest of their lives.”
And to that extent, entrepreneurship has to be a part of the curriculum. How students make sense out of their world, at an early age, have a lot to do with their ability to be very successful later in life.
-Rudy Crew Ed.D.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
The rationale behind having young people begin to develop those experiences, is the high motivation we see as a result of being involved in those programs. To find out that you have opportunities is a whole new message to so many young people. And to actually experience the process for doing it, so that you feel empowered to go out there and do it sometime in your life.
-Dr. Cathy Ashmore
Business failure is really a business transition. You know, you transition from one business that may not be as profitable as you want it to be, you close down that business and you start another business. So it's not an issue of failure. It's only failure is that you don't get up and start it ... and try again. That's when you fail.
-Howard S. Rasheed, Ph.D.
Cameron School of Business
UNC at Wilmington