Written by Patrick McClary,
Director of Youth Business Development
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do and I understand."
We learn best by doing, by experiencing, by erring, then dusting ourselves off and trying again, working tirelessly to avoid the mistakes we've just endured. This, too, is the over-arching philosophy of entrepreneurs the world over, young and old alike.
The young entrepreneurs at YouthBiz are challenging the notion that learning is contained to a classroom. Instead, they have decided to learn through action, cutting their entrepreneurial teeth in YouthBiz's top-level program known as Entrepreneurial Leaders, an independent study that supports young business owners as they launch, expand and refine their businesses. And, they are thriving in this real-life education.
"It doesn't occur to most high school students that they can own their business and that they can work for themselves. I'm making my own rules. I'm making my own products and making my own prices," says 15-year-old Deejay Jackson, owner of Emaune' Designs, a handmade clutch business. "No one can tell me how much money I can or cannot make."
Entrepreneurship is inherently about taking action -- leveraging opportunity, taking calculated risks, and creating profitable outcomes. Our work in the Entrepreneurial Leaders Program at YouthBiz is not so much to teach, but to guide and support these young entrepreneurs, as they experience entrepreneurship first-hand, in any way they need: from finding funding to helping problem solve a road block. It's up to the youth to take the big leaps and do what it takes to be successful. They understand that they have to own their opportunity, and the being an entrepreneur takes effort and guts. But, they say it's worth it.
"I don't have to depend on anyone to give me a paycheck," says 20-year-old Ruby Hernandez who, as owner of Ruby's Creative, offers photography and scrapbooking services in addition to making high-end, custom-made greeting cards. "I can be my own boss and work on my time. Earning money from my work and from the things that I like to do, it feels better (than just collecting a paycheck)."
As an organization, we believe strongly that by supporting the practice of entrepreneurship, we are delivering an experiential education of opportunity. In today's job market that sees millions without jobs, even with college degrees in hand, taking control of one's own economic life transcends the 'learn now and apply later paradigm' that is pervasive in our traditional middle and high school classrooms nationwide.
We are advancing the social and economic prosperity of the urban youth we serve one real-life sales cycle at a time.
"Since I joined YouthBiz, I'm more confident about myself," Ruby said. "It's given me a lot of confidence and I feel better about myself. I'm excited about creating my business. I can go and do anything that I want to do."
Ruby, and her fellow young entrepreneurs, and all of us at YouthBiz agree that actions do, after all, speak louder than words.
Support YouthBiz via the JobRaising Challenge by clicking here.