Teaching Entrepreneurship to Kids is Good Business

When Andy and I talk about how Viget can do more in the community, we tend to focus on things we're passionate about. That's why we've worked pro bono for a couple of years with the DC chapter of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, NFTE runs a mini-MBA program to teach at-risk kids how to start and run real businesses themselves. More than 150,000 kids have completed the program, and the impact has been fantastic. Entrepreneurship has been in our blood since Andy and I were kids running 9 paper routes before elementary school. Working with entrepreneurs now is a big part of what we do at Viget. Becoming dads in recent years has only heightened our interest in helping kids grow up to be confident, self-sufficient, and business-savvy adults. So our passion for NFTE continues to grow. Last week, USA Today featured NFTE in Get a job? No, make a job; How can we prepare our children for today's economy? Teach them workplace skills. Teach them entrepreneurship. It provides some great insights into the good work NFTE is doing and what Steve's experience was as he conceived of the program.
"The biggest problem in education in certain communities is that kids are bored," he says. (A 2006 Gates Foundation survey found that more than six out of ten high school drop-outs were earning a C average or better when they quit.) ... Research from Harvard and Brandeis Universities finds that NFTE students are not only likely to consider entrepreneurship as a path out of poverty-- but, that they also grow academically. Writing business plans is a sneaky way to make kids think about grammar. ... Calculating profits has kids learning math. Harvard research found that NFTE kids show a 32% increase in interest in attending college vs. a decrease over the same time frame among comparable low-income student groups.
NFTE isn't necessarily trying to inspire or train the next Bill Gates (although Jasmine Lawrence, the 15 year-old NFTE grad and CEO of Eden Body Works who was featured on Oprah yesterday, is pretty impressive). The program is as much about getting kids re-energized about education and thinking for themselves as it is about starting a business. Entrepreneurship is as American as apple pie, and it's instinctively interesting to young people in this country.
"Our program transforms street smarts into business smarts" - Steve Mariotti
NFTE DC's primary fundraising comes through one of the area's premier annual events. In addition to being a showcase of NFTE students' business ideas, the event is a "who's who" of area business leaders. This year's gala will be held on May 2nd at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC. Check out www.nftegw.com for information and sponsorship opportunities.

Brian is Viget's co-founder and CEO. He does everything from advising our clients to building our conference tables with his bare hands in our Falls Church, VA, HQ.

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