• October 30, 2014

Program to teach teens about small businesses

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Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014 4:30 am

TEMPLE — Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, students from area school districts will have an opportunity to develop their business acumen in an entrepreneurial program that also offers dual credits.

“The idea is to provide high school-age kids with an introduction to business and demonstrate how small business works,” said Vane Hugo, executive director of the Entrepreneur Center of Central Texas.

Not much is currently being taught about owning a business.

Even in upper-level courses for business management degrees, Hugo said, the classes are focused on instructing someone on how to be a corporate manager, not how to manage a small business.

The goal of the new program is to show students at a younger age that owning a small business is a potential career path.

“It’s another option,” he said.

The course of study will offer that exposure in a way that furthers the students’ education, and by offering it as dual credit, participants will get both college and high school credit.

Boot camp

Temple College offers four core classes that are dual-credit courses. High school students in the program will take two of those courses their junior year and the remainder their senior year.

There will be a short summer boot camp, Hugo said, possibly a week long, before the junior year and between the junior and senior years.

The first boot camp will look at possibilities and illustrate some real entrepreneur success stories. The second will be hands-on, taking some of the product ideas developed during the junior year. The product will be made and put on some retail shelves.

“The idea is to see the production happen and learn how to manage the cost of goods, pricing and learn the process,” Hugo said. “When they come out, they’ll have been immersed in some real business activity.”

The aim is to start with an idea, get it on the shelf and ideally put money in the bank, he said.

ICEHOUSE approach

One of the courses Hugo will teach is the ICEHOUSE approach, which has an entrepreneur mindset.

Part of the program will introduce people, via video, who were successful in building businesses from scratch, Hugo said.

“In the ICEHOUSE program, 14 individuals are profiled who have built multimillion dollar businesses,” he said. “Some started with nothing, others might have had $10,000, but that was the maximum amount.”

The successes were made by people from all backgrounds — former gang members, disabled veterans, as well as economically disadvantaged inner city individuals.

During the course, local entrepreneurs will be asked to share their experiences with the students.

“That will provide the students with a network and will illustrate it can be done in Temple, Belton, Salado, it’s not geographically defined,” he said. “You don’t have to go to the big city to make it work.”

The students will be taught the tools needed to get a small business going.

“Those who don’t want to write a business letter could use Microsoft Word,” Hugo said. “We’re not teaching Word, but we might teach you how to format your letter a little better. Same with spreadsheets; we’re not teaching Excel, but you can do accounting techniques in Excel and we’ll go through those processes.”

Parallel track

Hugo said that over the past year, he’d had multiple discussions with different people about how to get local entrepreneurship started earlier.

The fundamental inspiration came from the Temple Chamber of Commerce’s legislative luncheon series in 2013.

One of the programs dealt with getting students into the workforce.

The entrepreneur program is a parallel track, he said.

“You can go through workforce training and wind up becoming a welder some place, or you can go through this small business program and end up opening a welding shop,” Hugo said.

When students are young they don’t know what’s possible and what’s not.

“They’ll try anything if you expose them to it,” Hugo said.

Hugo said he can’t describe who might be the typical student for the program.

“It really depends on the business they pick,” he said.

Success depends on commitment.

“After the second year, there will be 40 students, so you have to keep it fairly small,” he said.

Pay tuition

The entrepreneur students will pay tuition like any other dual credit class, said Jennifer Graham, TC Foundation executive director.

“We are trying to come up with options so anyone could have access to the program, through scholarships or loan programs,” Graham said.

Graham said her larger role is to make sure all of the curriculum components for the college and high schools connect so the students get credit for high school and college.

The program will be open to all the area school districts and about 20 students will be accepted into the program.

“We’re really excited about the program and are committed to make it a success,” Hugo said.

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