Entrepreneurship—it’s more than just starting a business. That’s especially true for the educators teaching entrepreneurship to younger generations. With lessons rooted in entrepreneurship, youth are learning creative thinking, problem solving, financial savvy, and other critical life skills that prepare them for the future.
The delivery of entrepreneurial education varies. At Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire, students in an entrepreneurship class write business plans and pitch at local competitions. In cities across the United States, kids learn about starting and running a business via lemonade stands. An author wrote a children’s book offering entrepreneurial guidance. Colleges invite area teens to summer programs to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Undergraduate students mentor middle-schoolers and help them ideate a venture.
While these endeavors vary in model, they all highlight one important idea: entrepreneurship education does more than encourage youth to start a business; it prepares them for life.
With this concept in mind, we asked the leaders of such initiatives: Why should we begin teaching entrepreneurship to younger populations? Their answers are below.
Business and Entrepreneurship Teacher, Portsmouth High School, N.H.
“Public education provides a lot of pressure on students to follow specific steps in order to be successful, but the reality of the real world is that careers do not provide a recipe for success. Instead, a boss will assign a task, and you need to figure out how to complete it. Entrepreneurship allows students to see this and learn how to find solutions on their own and to expand their thinking beyond a rubric. Entrepreneurship helps students’ ability to think outside the box.”
Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, Babson College
“My impression is that the earlier teenagers are able to start thinking and acting like entrepreneurs, the easier it is for them. The further along in our lives we get, the more set in our ways we become; it’s more difficult for us to change. Oftentimes, kids don’t have the fears and worries about trying new things that adults do. By teaching them early, we are able to capitalize on that lack of fear and help them to become more successful.”
Associate Director, Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College
“We learned that to succeed in this world, you had to check off certain boxes and achieve certain milestones; that’s not necessarily a linear path anymore. Our students and our educators understand that, but they don’t necessarily know how to get there. Entrepreneurial education bridges the gap to help them make that leap.”
Author and Illustrator, Tales of (Ad)Venture
“Any discipline shapes the way we look at the world. A linguist sees a dictionary as the holy grail of knowledge, while an engineer might look at it and see a heavy counterweight. With entrepreneurship comes a prosperous way of thinking—an abundance mindset. The earlier one is exposed to it, the sooner s/he realizes his/her potential as change-makers, the greater impact they can have on society.”
Communications and Development Associate, Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College
“There’s a linear process still being taught [to youth]. The idea that you have to go from point A, then point B, then point C to get anywhere. But, that’s not the entrepreneurial way of thinking. I wish I had been exposed to this [entrepreneurial] way of thinking when I was 15 or 16.”
These experts are just a few of many working in Boston—and around the United States—to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to prepare youths for success in life and career. To read more about their programs, initiatives, and ideas, read our additional coverage on youth entrepreneurship: