Youth Use Entrepreneurship as a Pathway to Success - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Kalief Rollins and Obama 2EEXC

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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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.