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Cultivating Urban Youth Entrepreneurs

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Thursday, September 06, 2012

 

Challenge provides opportunity for change.

This is a common experience for most entrepreneurs who are challenged to provide their own solutions to the problems they face. Struggle is the birthplace of innovation, but one must be prepared with the right tools to overcome adversity. With the proper cultivation, ordinary individuals may become innovative entrepreneurial leaders, creating solutions versus being entrapped by problems that plague their communities. The entrepreneurial process strengthens the innate ability to create solutions, but this strength must be honed and fostered.

America’s three sports deities, the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) (I’m a fan of them all!) together represent one of the most highly revered talent pools in the United States. Each franchise, regardless of the sport, has a clear focus, expectation and invests capital with one goal in mind—winning. Participation at this level is highly selective. Most players have natural ability and talent within their sport often recognized in their youth. This leads to a training process, sometimes beginning as early as 5 years old or younger, and it typically involves someone, usually a coach, who has the experience to recognize talent and groom it to its full potential.

Where are those talent identifiers for potential entrepreneurs? What traits should they look for? Are those who teach in our classrooms, minister to our children, and serve as counselors at summer camps trained to recognize innate entrepreneurial abilities? How do you groom innovative entrepreneurial talent?

Great question. . .

 

1. Identify Urban Incubators

I believe the entrepreneurial incubators, particularly in the United States, already exist as schools, community organizations, places of worship, as well as the growing socially-networked global communities. Equipped with the tools, tech, training, and marshaling resources to compete in the marketplace, I’m convinced a crop of well-trained entrepreneurs can be seeded, sown, and harvested in their own communities. By providing entrepreneurs with solution based tools and resources such as StartingUp Now we can help cultivate their innate ability to create solutions in their own communities.

 

2. Expect Success

It is necessary to provide entrepreneurial facilitators effective solution-based tools intentionally designed to create operational businesses. This begins with a fundamental belief that the student can indeed, with the training, operate the business. Training connotes expectation. Train for success.

Within the context of football, a team practices all week, oftentimes twenty hours or more to play for a total of sixty minutes. The team is often able to quickly learn if their conditioning (preparation), game plan (business plan), and outcome (achieved goals) resulted in a win or a loss. It is also absolutely necessary, regardless of a win or a loss, for the team to review the game film with their coaches to improve each week. Teams DO NOT train to fail—failure is an obstacle to overcome. Therefore, we must position the entrepreneurial facilitator with effective resources with the expectation to train successful entrepreneurs.

 

3. Seek Challenge

Youth in challenged urban environments are highly intelligent, adaptable, and often solve their own problems. However, they are still youth and need the assurance that someone, their “coach”, will be there to assist with their business and personal development. The new startup provides opportunities for students to apply the skills learned in the planning process—it’s their business. We entrepreneurial instructors must learn to coach the business not control the business. The student must learn if their plan resulted in their intended outcome. Their network will multiply as they create new relationships, solve business trials, and begin to see difficulties as opportunities to be solved.  Their entrepreneurial mindset is shaped by both their successes, failures, and their resolve is increased by their ability to overcome. Students discover the power of decision-making and the implication of poor choices.  These experiences mold them as the future business leaders.

The startup provides ownership, accomplishment, allowing for a goal they set, achieved, and serves as a platform for other students to emulate. Through the rigors of operation, they learn that business is dependent upon their reputation providing ample opportunity to realize “Treat others as you want to be treated,” and the benefit thereof.  By growing urban entrepreneurs with values that exceed their own self-interest, we intrinsically train these future leaders that operating a successful business requires service to their family, community, country and others under their influence.


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