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Teaching Entrepreneurship - Fostering Opportunity

Rebekah Bishop - Monday, October 15, 2012

Cornerstone Academy students selling their mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair

Cornerstone Academy students selling mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair, April 2012 

At StartingUp Now, we teach that entrepreneurship is more than a tool for profit. It is a lifestyle which embraces hard work and ingenuity as a means of growing strong economic markets, self-sustained communities, and flourishing individuals. These and other principles of entrepreneurship are vital, not only to the health of our own struggling economy, but even more so to that of our future generations. Educators who recognize this need within the lives our youth, are exploring ways in which we can introduce the concept and skills of self-employment at the student level.

One such fore-thinker is Mr. William Seitz, co-founder of Cornerstone Academy in Chicago, IL and Director of the school's core curriculum of economic principles. Cornerstone Academy is an alternative high school for students who have dropped out of public schools, and Mr. Seitz believes that preparing these students for a bright future, involves giving them the tools to see their potential and imagine the possibilities.

At Cornerstone Academy, traditional disciplines such as math and science are supported by school-wide lessons in the fundamentals of economics such as: “all choices have consequences.” Every month  a new principle is introduced and highlighted by teachers within the context of each class. Students also participate in a school economy based on a credit system which records their attendance and adherence to codes of conduct. Credits are translated into positive and negative dollar amounts, giving students the opportunity to earn a small income to be used for school events such as attending a Shakespeare play or going ice skating in Millennium Park. In monthly meetings with their “banker” (Seitz), students review their credits and are given the option to retrieve their funds, or save them in the bank. However, in keeping with the principle “all choices have consequences,” those students who use their money right away often face the difficulty of paying for events which other students have set aside money for. Seitz says these experiences teach students that their choices are their own. He cannot make wise choices for them, but he shows them the consequences of the choices they make.

Another choice Cornerstone students are offered is to participate in the student business, Artistic Expressions. Students design, make, and sell mosaic picture frames and mirrors, at craft fairs and expos, earning money and valuable experience interacting with consumers. The program started in 2006, when Entrenuity (not for profit founded by SU's founder, Brian Jenkins) lead an entrepreneurship course at Cornerstone in which students created the business model for Artistic Expressions. Their goal was to design a business that would function according to the economic principles they had learned in class. As a result, their design became the foundation which has for 6 years continued to support students in their business experience.

Like any well organized business, Artistic Expressions is formed of separate teams: the designers, the manufacturers, and the sellers. Profits are divided evenly between the teams and then amongst team members, according to the amount they contribute. Because participation is voluntary, each student is responsible for his or her own choices and level of commitment, and they each get to see the direct results of those choices as they earn their income.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry, a Cornerstone student who was part of last school year's selling team. He told me about his experience selling the mosaics at the 45th Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair at Navy Pier in April, 2012, and what he learned from being in the role of a businessman.
    
    “The environment was totally new; it was a new experience because I couldn't look around at everything myself, because I had to sell. Speaking to so many strangers was hard at first, but once I sold one, I wanted to sell another," says Jerry.
    Overcoming his natural shyness, Jerry worked hard to discover effective sales techniques of approaching the difficult crowd.
    “If I talked to them about our school and how we made the frames ourselves, I might sell a few. But if I mentioned that Mother's Day was coming up, and I asked them if their mom might like one of these picture frames, then I would sell a lot."
    Other lessons Jerry said he learned that day included patience and recognizing that hard work only paid off after more hard work. He is also excited about this next year's opportunities. “I want to make and sell this year,” he told me excitedly. “If you sell what other people make, you only make part of the profit, so it is better to sell your own product if you can.”

    The opportunity of a hands-on business experience is one that has broadened the possibilities for many of Cornerstone's students. Jerry reports that he would never have thought that starting his own business could be an option before; he always expected to work for someone else. Now he thinks it might be something he could do one day. “Not arts and crafts.” he told me emphatically. Computers and software design are what interest Jerry. He plans on attending college to study computer science and social work to discover ways in which he can serve people using his skills in technology.

Other Cornerstone students have been inspired by their experience with Artistic Expressions to start their own business, such as Mark, who, during his senior year, began a fitness training service and earned money for his college tuition.

Beyond making a small profit now, students of Cornerstone Academy are adopting a vital mindset for their future. Whether they follow the path of entrepreneurship, or choose to work for existing businesses, they have the faith in themselves to make ambitious decisions and apply their skills towards attaining their goals.


Following Your Drive

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

 

Skating isn’t usually included in the list of entrepreneurial ideas. It might even be called a foreign entity in the business world. At StartingUp Now, I had the opportunity to speak to a skater who turned his passion for skating and ministry into an achievable and actionable business plan. Noah Arnold, 29, demonstrates entrepreneurial initiative as he transitions into a new stage in his life, while showing how broad entrepreneurship opportunities can reach. In an unyielding manner, Arnold represents a prime example of entrepreneurship in a new capacity, and he uses StartingUp Now to turn his skating interests into a profitable business.

Arnold plans on opening a board shop that would sell skateboards, wakeboards, and snowboards products as well as accompanying retail clothing. He has always had a heart for skating, but he became a leader as he grew into a minister role to the skating community. Growing up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he moved to Illinois to study at Trinity International University. After college, Arnold moved to Libertyville, IL, where he co-founded Foundation Skate Ministry, a nonprofit skate ministry. Foundation Skate Ministry has two purposes: the “effective proclamation of the gospel of Christ to the lost skate culture in Lake County” and, “making disciples and the development of those disciples’ character into the character of Christ himself ‘teaching them to do all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20).” Through weekly bible studies, the ministry reaches out to the skating community and transforms it through the word of God. “It started with a couple of kids a week, like 3 or 4, and then it grew to around 35-45 at my apartment,” said Arnold. He used his individual role as a skater to reach out to an entirely new and often overlooked community. 

He further immersed himself in skating culture when he moved to California for a year to teach physical education at a private school. “So-Cal and skate boarding is like PB & J,” said Arnold. However, he returned to Sturgeon Bay when he heard about the creation of a ten thousand square foot skate park in Door County. “If I can open up a skate shop and do ministry, I would be following my heart and passion,” he said.

While formulating his initial concept for the business, he was directed to StartingUp Now by a parent of a child in Arnold’s youth group. Since then, he has begun using the plan to layout his business plan and confirm his goals for the board shop for the next five years. “It’s been really helpful to put it all in words…I want to make sure I’m aiming for what I really want,” said Arnold. His use of the StartingUp Now Skillcenter not only allows him to lay out his business plan in a central online location, but the resources he can access help him visualize unclear concepts by providing relevant examples on starting his own business.

What he has gained most from the StartingUp Now plan is his marketing strategy. Arnold still dedicates himself to fostering the skating culture. “Skate culture is fairly new, it’s growing, and it would be...molding the culture…being the voice for skaters and supporting them…I want to motivate skaters and get their support,” he said. Developed from the StartingUp Now plan, Arnold’s efforts target at expanding the skating culture as well as promoting Door County as a prime destination.

Arnold’s situation presents a great example of the influence entrepreneurship can make on a community. Spurred by his passions for ministering to the youth and skating, he is able to transform a lifelong “hobby” into a way to support his family and occupy an influential role in Door County, WI.

To learn more about Foundation Skate Ministry, visit their website. To contact Noah Arnold directly, email him at noah.arnold711@gmail.com.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Randi Craigen

Jason Huang - Thursday, August 30, 2012

 Sometimes the greatest challenge to success is knowing where to start. Randi Craigen found her focus through StartingUp Now.

Randi Craigen is the Chicago director of East Wind Nannies as well as an emerging jewelry designer who had once never thought she would run a business. A mother of four and proclaimed introvert, Randi took the inspiration of friends and the tools and support she gained from StartingUp Now, and is now working on making two dreams a reality. Randi has lived in Chicago for over twenty years, and faces both the challenges and excitements of marketing to the city’s unique needs and culture.

How did you get started with your nanny business?

I was working as a part time teacher’s aid at a preschool, and a friend of mine asked me how my job was going. I told her I was thinking about taking a nanny position instead, so that I could really focus on just a couple of kids and really relate to them and invest in them, rather than crowd control with twenty-some kids. She said to me, why don’t you open a branch at my nanny agency. She was looking to expand, and I said sure let’s talk. As we talked more about it, I realized it was something I could do and would enjoy doing. I didn’t have to start from zero; I could take her plan and her structure, and I could work from there. I still felt by doing that I could invest in kids by helping find quality nannies to care for them while their parents were at work.

How did you learn about StartingUp Now?
I’ve known Brian for about twenty years. I didn’t know exactly what StartingUp was about, but I knew that Brian was kind of a small business guru. I started with this agency in Chicago, which is pretty much just me. I quickly found myself in over my head, and I thought what am I supposed to do? Even though some things were already laid out for me, reaching the Chicago market, you know, that was all on me. So I went to his office to talk to him about small business, and Brian did everything to get me involved, from dropping the book in my lap to walking past me and checking up on me to making sure I was working on things.
 
What has been your experience with StartingUp Now?
I’m still honestly working through some things on it, but I think the greatest benefit I’ve had thus far is clarity. When I first talked to Brian, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was going to be, because figuring out the business plan and start up costs had essentially been done, or so I thought. However, it really helped me to understand just what it was I was marketing, what my product actually was. I thought my product was nannies, and that’s not my product; my product is really the very personalized customer service that I provide for families by doing the nanny search for them. That makes a difference in how I market it.

Brian also showed me the Skillcenter, and I was fiddling around with it and realized how easy it was. There was a question on startup costs that I didn’t exactly know what it was, and there was a link that I could click on immediately that went to an article that explained it; it’s so user friendly.

So after going through StartingUp Now, how has your outlook on entrepreneurship changed?
I just think differently; I see the opportunities in things. It’s funny to me how even talking to my daughter this summer, when she had requests to do face painting at a birthday party, I was just flowing with ideas about how to turn that into a business for her and how she could market that and how she needed to lay out a plan and all these different things on how to market herself as a face painter for birthday parties and earn a little bit of money. I’m planning these little businesses every time I turn around.

About a year and a half ago I started making jewelry just for friends and as gifts. A couple friends would ask, “Can you make something for my mom, and I’ll pay you for it.” People were liking what I was doing, so I started looking for little opportunities, Christmas shows where I could set up a little table and trunk shows for friends, but I never planned on making it a business. It’s just sort of been happening on the side. Now I love making it so much that I have all this product sitting around that nobody knows about really; nobody knows my little secret. Brian has been talking to me about how crazy that the product is already there, the investment is already made, so he’s really pushing me through the business side of it.

Where do you hope to see your businesses going?
I’m a little timid about that, which is another thing that Brian has been beating me over the head about. He’ll say things to me like what if I said you could earn this much money next year with your jewelry business, and I just look at him like he’s crazy. He’s dead serious, like no really, let’s talk about this. Of anybody I have talked to, Brian has really made me feel like okay, I can do this. He’s not just “rah, rah, go!” but instead gives me tools that have really helped me and made me start to believe, yeah I really can do this.

What do I want for this agency? I want it to be very relational, very personalized. I don’t have a vision for it to be huge. If I can’t give the families the kind of customer service that I believe in and believe is a strength as an agency, that means I’m probably going to need to get administrative help; somebody else will have to do other things so that I can do the relational aspect.

StartingUp has helped me to think in terms of growth, but not that it turns into something that I don’t want it to be. Just being able to express that, the Starting Up process has helped me define those things.


If you are interested in being a part of East Wind Nannies, visit their website. To contact Randi directly, call 312-650-9396.

Teen Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rebekah Willis

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

People are always asking us, "Who is StartingUp Now for?" Our answer: Whoever wants to start a business!

The accessibility and simplicity of StartingUp Now has benefited both youth and adults alike, including budding teen entrepreneurs like Rebekah Willis.

Rebekah, 16, and her two siblings got their first taste of entrepreneurship two years ago under Brian Jenkins' leadership as he guided them through the completion of their business plans. It was during this time that Brian developed the content for his book, StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business, and tested his concepts on the Willis siblings. Their training culminated into a business pitch presentation in front of several business and community leaders who provided critical feedback on the viability of their business plans.

Currently, Rebekah operates a growing granola business from her home, stating, "I'm excited and a little nervous about this venture. The response has been huge."

Bright, talented, and industrious, Rebekah represents the new generation of young entrepreneurs who are juggling multiple projects and responsibilities. Hailing from a family of 10 children, Rebekah is a home schooled student, part-time graphic designer and editor for Enduring Endeavors II, Inc., and performs in a music group.

As one of her dozens of customers, I've had the pleasure of enjoying her delicious, homemade granola and was excited to catch up with her for this recent interview.

Did you ever see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why did you start your business?

Proverbs 31 in the Bible describes a woman of noble virtue. She has many home-oriented characteristics and one of them is the ability to produce marketable goods and sell them. This spring, I had the privilege to join about twenty youth in an Irish music competition. We took first in regionals, so we will compete at the world championship in Ireland...and I have to pay my way. So I pulled Grandma's old granola recipe out and put it to work. My intentions were not--and still are not--to start a huge business, but to earn money while still fulfilling my responsibilities at home.

Everyone experiences challenges in the process of starting a business. What have been the most surprising challenges you've faced?

I made my fundraising intentions clear from the start. Many friends and neighbors who have had my granola in the past have been very supportive. Their word-of-mouth marketing is my best marketing tool. One lady commented that she appreciates someone working hard to earn money rather than asking for donations. However, not all customers have been easy to work with. After a scheduled pick-up date, I still have bags of granola sitting by the front door. I have found that communication with customers is vital, but it is hard to work with their shortcomings.

How has StartingUp Now helped you in your business planning?

StartingUp Now helped me most with the financial side of entrepreneurship. I learned about startup-costs, on-going costs, gross income, and net income. I learned how to set prices so I cover my costs with buffer room and how to be competitive at the same time.

What advice or key takeaways can you share with other new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, be ready for some hard work. It may not pay off right away, but it will strengthen the business and it will strengthen you. I had to stir about 50 pounds of oats on one day. I had some sore forearms that week! But when a customer later asked if my mom helped me or if I did everything myself, I was able to confirm my own work and give her reason to trust me and my business.

Second, communicate. A tech-reliant culture creates more opportunities to promote your business, but it also makes customers more reliant on reminders. Don't hound them all week--personally, I would delete nagging messages sent to me. Be wise in your timing. Be brief. Be consistent.

Third, start simply. Rather than offering variety, start with your niche. Now that I have a good customer base and a good reputation, I can start selling scones or cinnamon rolls or other goodies. But to start with everything at once would be overwhelming to me and perhaps produce a product of lesser quality.

How can people interested in ordering your granola contact you?

You can reach me at rebekahlynn@me.com.

 


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