This last November, I had the pleasure of traveling to Beijing to visit the entrepreneurship program NFTE operates in collaboration with the Bright China Foundation (BCF). It was life-changing for me to see the vibrancy of China's economy and the unmistakable presence of the entrepreneurial spirit. The BCF was started in 2003 with the mission of bringing entrepreneurship to Chinese youth. Their programs have, so far, reached 80,000 young people. Henry To and his Bright China team have created one of the top nonprofits in the country in a very short time.
Being at the business plan competition -- sponsored by the New York Stock Exchange -- reminded me of the power of the business idea and what can be created with persistence and hard work, and the importance of incubating and facilitating the development of the ideas of young people to solve economic problems. I also noticed how similar entrepreneurial young people are all over the world. They have the same excitement and passion when they are finding ways to meet the needs of their communities.
The businesses ranged from the traditional -- a tea house, and making dolls, to the more cutting-edge enterprises of computerized interior design and marketing firms. Each contestant had five minutes for the presentation followed by eight minutes of Q&A. I can say that the presenters demonstrated a mastery of business subjects. Also, these young people had been operating their ventures for at least six months. The tea house business mentioned above is making 10,000 dollars per month!
In China, they have a vocational track in which young people who are identified as less academic learn a skill. As in America, many of these young people are left without real opportunity for financial success, and so entrepreneurship is an essential and inspirational component for vocationally tracked students. And ironically, given the state of the economy, they may actually turn out to have a better chance of being economically productive.
The Chinese are inspired by the entrepreneurial surge in their economy. They have a vision, a passion, and a desire to connect to the world's expanding economic community.
Henry To, Catherine Feng, Christine Poorman