Fostering Entrepreneurial Skills with Shark Tank-Like Program for Students in Pittsburgh


Entrepreneurship has no age limits. One startup support organization in Pittsburgh is taking extra steps to foster creativity and business acumen in young people.

Startable is a program of Innovation Works, a local startup organization that supports tech entrepreneurs throughout the community. This youth program offers an experience for students aged 13 through 18, providing a “Shark Tank”-like atmosphere where they can create and launch their own hardware products.

The program is hosted at participating schools. Startable offers funding to cover teacher support and supplies. But students can use the time and resources to launch actual products and businesses, of which they get to keep their profits. In addition, students who compete in the startup pitch competition get $100, and the winning team gets a $1,000 prize.

Students at the six participating schools throughout the Pittsburgh area have already launched numerous innovations, including a water-powered engine, apparel for those with limb deficiencies, and a device that helps users with budgeting.

Startable’s Program Manager Shelley Brown told local CBS News affiliate KDKA, “We recognize that there are grand challenges across the world and around the country that are not necessarily being met by entrepreneurs of today, and so we want to ensure that students are prepared and ready to meet some of these challenges that need new creativity and new eyes.”

The program is now in its tenth year, and has even seen some students launch products and pursue entrepreneurship after completing the program.

While entrepreneurship isn’t right for everyone, the skills students learn in this type of program can be valuable across a huge range of career paths. For example, they must show creativity in developing new ideas, strong organization and collaboration to launch new initiatives, and solid communication skills to pitch their ideas. In helping students build these skills and try out entrepreneurship in a low-risk environment, Startable can help young people better determine their ideal career path and ultimately uncover some successful future entrepreneurs.

Image: Depositphotos

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.