Who’s Inspiring Today’s Young Entrepreneurs?

Who's Inspiring Today's Young Entrepreneurs?I’ve always believed in the importance of helping young people become entrepreneurs. The innovation and energy of youth are the building blocks of small-business success. The good news is, there are more and more organizations out there helping America’s kids, teens and young adults thrive as entrepreneurs.

The Kauffman Foundation (which has funded or guided many entrepreneurship programs itself) recently took a look at some of the top efforts.

  • Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) has more than 7,000 members who grow their companies by sharing their experiences and learning from each other.
  • Junior Achievement started to help students with career opportunities. Junior Achievement now gives students hands-on experience in entrepreneurship through elementary, middle and high school.
  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) educates low-income youth from mostly urban areas, helping them improve business, academic and life skills through entrepreneurship education and business competitions. Students get to work with real entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences.
  • YSN.com, founded by my friend Jennifer Kushell, offers a ton of tools, solid advice and a strong network for young entrepreneurs.
  • I’ve been involved with all of these organizations; they’ve been around for several years. But there are also some relatively new groups serving the market:
  • Elliot Bisnow’s “Summit Series” began as an informal group for the world’s top young entrepreneurs. The recent Summit Series earlier this month brought together some of the world’s top CEOs, entrepreneurs, entertainers and philanthropists under 35 to hear speakers like former president Bill Clinton. Summit members get together a few times a year to share ideas on business and how it can solve the world’s problems. Members have met with world leaders and high-ranking policy makers to brainstorm ideas.
  • Startup Weekend asks the question, “What if you could take an idea from concept to reality in just one weekend?” Founded by a young serial entrepreneur, the event brings startup entrepreneurs, marketing experts and others together for a weekend-long event that transforms entrepreneurs’ ideas into reality in just 54 hours. So far, over 15,000 entrepreneurs worldwide have gone through the program.
  • Bridging the gap beyond high school, the new Entrepreneur U from DECA helps students and parents explore entrepreneurship education opportunities post-high school.
  • ExtremeEntrepreneurship Tour (EET) is the first nationwide entrepreneurship tour aimed at students. Cofounder Michael Simmons launched his first business at 16 and now EET aims to inspire other young entrepreneurs. The tour visits small business development centers, economic development organizations and schools to introduce students to entrepreneurship and inspire them to think big.

We’re in an era of change right now and young people lead change. What’s so inspiring about these new organizations and events is that they’re grassroots efforts not just for, but by, young entrepreneurs. I have no doubt that we’ll see even more growth in organizations promoting and assisting young entrepreneurs in the years ahead.


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

10 Reactions
  1. Rieva Lesonsky,

    Great to see the support of young entrepreneurs. In Sweden you could go to an organization called “hothouse” (“Drivhuset” in Swedish). Their slogan is: “Where students’ ideas grow.”


  2. The Kauffman Foundation has underwritten millions of dollars in grants to train 1,000 small business owners based in New York City. The Levin Institute for Entrepreneurship delivers the training and is constantly looking for small business owners or solopreneurs who want to learn how to run their businesses better and to make more money. This training program called “Fast Trac Growth Venture”, worth thousands, is offered at no cost to the business owner.You can see how amazing these Fast Trac grads are in these videos: http://www.bestsmallbizhelp.com/celebrate. Teenagers with great ideas are welcome too.

    Fast Trac Growth Venture NYC info is here: http://www.levininstitute.org/fasttrac/growthventure.cfm. In addition to a great program, the networking benefits are incredible.

  3. Know if any of these are big in Utah?

  4. Rieva,

    Great post. I keep encouraging my daughter to start thinking about being her own boss someday. (Of course, it’s not like a 14 year old girl needs practice being bossy.)

    But seriously, I do hope more young folks consider small business ownership. The job market is not like it used to be, and probably never will be a “stay at our company for 30 years and get a Rolex” ever again.

    One more thing. I’ve been checking this site out, too;


    The Franchise King

  5. Scott R Kelly | Opportunity Facilitator

    Thanks Rieva… Another hugely successful organization that promotes and trains young adults to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders is Patriot Academy founded by the very well known Rick Green. http://www.patriotacademy.com/

    Scott R Kelly | Opportunity Facilitator http://scottrkelly.com

  6. Great stuff. I had never heard of junior achievement so I will be sure to check them out. I am friends with most of the other organizations listed.

    Hopefully we do a pretty good job over at http://under30ceo.com also!

  7. Great post, Rieva. Practical/tactical in-the-trenches BUSINESS TRAINING is the key to not only creating healthy local busineses here in the U.S., but also in solving world poverty.

    500 million people in China and India have come out of poverty in just 20 years, directly attributable to the growth of capitalism in both those countries – an astonishing feat. Meanwhile, after more than 100 years of throwing hundreds of billions of non-profit dollars at Africa, recently completed studies show we have had no long-term impact whatsoever on that continent’s poverty.

    I am actively involved with business owners in the slums of Nairobi to provide that training, and Entrepreneur training organizations like you’ve listed will be vital to the future continued growth of small business both here and across the world.

  8. I agree this is an awesome post. When the younger generation have dreams of establishing their own business it makes me smile & it makes me remember the older generations when many started their own. There is a great resource for young entrepreneurs called The CASHFLOW. They select startups to fund. If anyone is interested check them out The Cash Flow. I really recommend them!