Youth Use Entrepreneurship as a Pathway to Success

National business plan competition nurtures dreams

Kalief Rollins and Obama 2EEXC

President Barack Obama looks at one of the t-shirts marketed by Kalief Rollins, 17, from Carson, Ca., during a meeting with Youth Entrepreneur Challenge winners in the Oval Office, Oct. 19, 2009. First-place winner Kalief worked with his brother to launch Phree Kountry Clothing, which designs and sells custom T-shirts. Kalief is now in Southwest Community College, and majoring in business. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Kalief Rollins, winner of the 2009 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, presents one of his company's t-shirts to President Barack Obama. (Source: The White House)

Running a successful business is not an easy feat no matter what your age. Yet there are teenagers, like Kalief Rollins, the winner of the 2009 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, who were able to benefit from business start-up education and learn not only the value of a dollar, but how to claim the value of his life.

In this, the first article of a four-part series on youth entrepreneurship, examines how an emphasis on teen entrepreneurship education has the potential to create positive career paths for youth.

Rollins, 17, considers the t-shirt business he started with his brother in April, to be his ticket to success. He quit football and even missed out on high school graduation night parties with friends so that he could dedicate more time to his business, Phree Kountry Sankofa. His ambitious attitude even afforded him a chance to meet President Barack Obama along with two finalists in the OppenheimerFunds/NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge competition.

The competition is the cornerstone for NFTE, which sponsors programs around the world to teach students how to start a business. By the end of the entrepreneurship course students are expected to create a business concept and write a business plan for it. The course runs for either a semester or a year, and it is paid for by the school or with donations from local businesses.

“NFTE helped me realize that I needed to be a legitimate business with licensing and figure out my profit margin so that I didn’t sell shirts for too little or too much,” says Rollins, one of 28 contestants in the competition. Rollins has sold nearly 400 shirts since the company’s inception in April.

But Steve Marriotti, NFTE’s founder, says that the real purpose behind the program is not about teaching kids how to make money, but it’s about teaching teens how to take ownership of their lives. Studies show that entrepreneurial experience increases occupational aspirations, interest in college, reading, and leadership for youth.

“Entrepreneurship is just a tactic. It is really about owning you,” say Marriotti. “The strategy we are trying to [teach them] is to own your time. Money is a tool [to do that].”

Over the last 21 years more than 280,000 young people from low-income communities have graduated from NFTE classes and a recent evaluation of alumni shows that six months after matriculation 70% were in college, and one in three ran a small business.

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7 Responses to Youth Use Entrepreneurship as a Pathway to Success

  1. Tonya Webber says:

    A 18yr old certified Billboard hip hop artist fromSt.louis Mo. named Yung Ro is making his presence known as a entrepreneur. The CEO of his own label BP Ent which also umbrellas a tattoo palor,recording studio,and a youth program called Runway2Empowerment. Tired of his hometown being ranked among crime,stds,and high school drop outs.Yung Ro decided to step up to the plate and address the tragedies that are plaguing the teen community.BP Ent has been around for 14 yrs and has gained national attention in Source,Ozone,BET,Vh1,Right On,and many more.

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  6. Jaran Barnes says:

    This is great and should be taught as a curriculum in schools to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship in our youth, the only way to stimulate the economy is to create wealth and jobs

  7. Jaran Barnes says:

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