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.