7 Ways to Kick-start Entrepreneurship at the Earliest Level: High School
Incentivize entrepreneurship, but first provide the resources.
Ultimately, each of the following 7 steps boil down to making the resources available for students to learn about and practice entrepreneurship, and then incentivizing it.
Students need to learn entrepreneurial skills at an early age. The new shift in the corporate economy values entrepreneurship in job positions, and as Millennials have looked to entrepreneurship more as a career choice, it can be expected that Gen Z will as well.
Students will take advantage of these resources once provided, all that is needed is for the them to be installed in a central location in a community; the High School.
1. Teach Computer Science
While many private high schools offer this course, we are losing thousands of potential entrepreneurs by not creating this as a widespread class. Often computer science is lumped in under engineering, or offered as an online course, but this does not do it justice. If schools truly want to produce entrepreneurs, they must make this course a priority, as it breeds and empowers product creators.
2. Start an Entrepreneurship Club
This often relies on a student to create this, but nevertheless, an entrepreneurship club actively sparks the community and students flock to it as a resource. Organizations such as MIT LaunchX greatly benefit students, giving a pre-built framework for how to run the club. Other student led clubs could end the year with a competition, a small amount of prize money, or just a sticker for resumes. While the end goal doesn’t have to be starting a million dollar company, giving students a taste of working on their own idea and making money is essential.
3. Publicly Praise Your Student Entrepreneurs
High School students are somewhat egotistical, if schools want to promote entrepreneurship they can play into this. Have an entrepreneur at your school? Promote them, have them speak at an event, encourage them to lead a club or attend a board meeting. Younger students will see this attention, and try to seek ways to replicate it and put them in that position.
4. Host a Hackathon
Computer Science should be taught first, but once you know you have a good concentration of developers at your school, host a Hackathon. These encourage quick MVP development, while also adding in competition, and can lead to some great products. They can spur entrepreneurial thoughts in some developers who haven’t had the confidence to make their own products and publish them yet.
5. Teach Money Management and Investing
This has been a long-term issue with the high school curriculum, and it is still hindering lifelong skills and entrepreneurship. If more time within the school year is dedicated to teaching student’s basic financial skills such as managing a simple stocks account, or creating a balance sheet. This will spike interest in potential entrepreneurs, and give all students basic financial literacy.
6. Host Pitch Competitions
Similar to a Hackathon, pitch competitions bring out entrepreneurs in the community and gives clubs and students a goal to work towards. Clubs can prepare yearlong for the competition, or students can prepare with their teams independently. Teachers in schools can promote it, and money can be raised by a club, buy-in fees, or local donors for a small prize for the winner. Local entrepreneurs can be brought in to judge, and students will bring their friends. Overall, it will bolster the entrepreneur environment exponentially.
7. Create a Venture Fund for High School Companies
This is by far one of the more radical ideas on this list, but this is also a need and can make money. With a worldwide focus, there would be many high-quality investments from all over the world, and these companies could combine to make a return-able portfolio. For more dedicated high school founders, this fund would provide them an excellent resource, and could help them bridge the gap to be a real company. The students securing funding from this fund would be looked up to in their communities and inspire fellow students.
If you are a high school student, teacher, community member, or someone with influence, hopefully you can apply one of these steps to a high school in your area. Any of these steps will improve the environment and create more entrepreneurs. I have grown up in a public high school that lacks almost all of these (as most high schools do) and I see these as obvious and mandatory needs for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Some resources for high school students:
MIT LaunchX- MIT provides frameworks for students to set up entrepreneurship clubs at high schools. They also offer summer entrepreneurship programs at MIT.
Blue Ocean Challenge- US pitch competition for high school students offering cash prizes and more held in Maryland.
The Diamond Challenge- Worldwide pitch competition for high school students. $10,000 prize for 1st place, other cash + benefits prizes for other students. Global competition with students from all over the world. They also host an annual summit.
Congressional App Challenge- Government backed app challenge for high school students, submit an app you have coded in the last year, can win a prize and recognition at #HouseofCode Reception in DC. Deadline to submit in 4 days!! (Nov 1st, 2017)
Virtual Enterprises International- Annual summits for high school entrepreneurs and business leaders
**For students local to North Carolina**
Next Gen Pitch Competitions- Great pitch competitions coming up around the state with $1,000 prizes
Thanks for reading! If you want advice or help constructing any of these I’d love to pitch in. email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @max2311000