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Joanne_steele_pic Could EntrepreneurShip Investigation Help Keep Your Youth at Home?

Today I’m going to take a break from my introduction of my newly opened membership site, Take Control of Your Internet Marketing and talk about an impressive youth entrepreneurship program I learned about in Nebraska last week.


We know we need to do something about the aging of our small towns. We talk about creating jobs that will allow our children to stay home. But most of us realize that that just isn’t going to happen. Manufacturing has drifted overseas and there just isn’t any deus ex machina to save small town jobs anymore.

We all want our kids to get that college education that will set them up for a better life. We push them out of the nest and hope that somehow they’ll figure out a way to come back home.

Young entrepreneurs collaborating on the design of their product, the B B Mister

University of Nebraska has been leading the way in creating systems to give kids the skills they need to stay home and create a successful life for themselves. It’s called EntrepreneurShip Investigation.

I would never suggest that rural kids NOT get post high school education. But this entrepreneurship training program helps them create the road map that shows them how they can lead a successful, prosperous life in their hometown, or what they can aspire to do when they return.

I saw it in action last week at the Biz Idea Summit held the day before MarketPlace 2012 in Kearney, Nebraska.

I had intended to “observe,” but was kindly asked by coordinator, Nancy Eberle, to be a guide for one of the youth teams.

I sat down at a table with four young men from four different high schools with a certain sense of dread. Nancy had instructed me that my job was to guide, not lead. The boys were as clueless as I was, and I had a strong feeling that we were on our way to nowhere with me as their “guide!”

Nancy Eberle is amazing. As one of the original designers and trainers of the full EntreprenerShip program through University of Nebraska, Lincoln extension, she exuded confidence. She explained that in the next hour and a half each team would design a product inspired by an odd shaped widget she held up for all to see.

Each team was to design their product, create a business plan for the product, create a jingle to sell the product, and build a Powerpoint to present their business to the group.

My guys sat with their arms folded eyeing each other, and I wondered just what a guide was expected to do to get them to talk to each other. I suggested that they name a leader which resulted in everyone folding their arms more tightly around their chests, and their eyes to drop to the tabletop.

Thanks to a forced choice tool I learned from a trainer expert friend of mine, Doug Carter, a leader was picked. How? (Remember this little tool – it always works!) I asked the guys to raise their hands… then point at their leader. Three of the four pointed to the same person and we had the exactly perfect leader.

With one more suggestion that they go through the handout step by step, our leader got his team to work.

Nancy Eberle’s system for inspiring high school kids was nearly a complete success.

My guys designed a perfectly sensible product, identified their market, figured out how and where they would sell it, what they would make it out of, what it would sell for, and what message would appeal to their market.

They created a short but effective Powerpoint presentation although they strongly resisted creating a jingle – something that probably cost them the competition. And they had fun!

The team presenting their product, a bird mister to enhance a senior citizen's experience of their garden

They accomplished everything in slightly less than an hour and a half!

When I asked them what they learned from this exercise their answers reflected what Nancy had promised when I talked to her about why this type of activity was important.

After an hour and a half, these boys thought a little differently about whether they might be able to start their own business. One young man wants to become a diesel mechanic. He came away wondering if he really needed to work for someone else after completing his training.

Another said he was clearer about the steps one needs to take to start a business.

Clearly, one morning long program won’t keep kids from permanently moving away, but the comprehensive training programs created over the past ten years by UNL extension just might.

Entrepreneurs are not born, they are made. Until entrepreneurship becomes an integral part of rural school’s curriculums, we will watch our kids leave home with little chance that we’ll ever see them come back.

Share the link to EntrepreneurShip Investigation with your school principal and school board. It’s time that the business community in small towns take the bull by the horns and stand up for youth entrepreneurship training to save our towns.

Links to share with young people you know:

High School Financial Planning Program

Are you Ready? Watch this yourself. It will make your hair curl!

You can read and comment on all of Joanne Steele’s posts on Rural Tourism Marketing on her Rural Tourism Marketing Blog.

See all posts by Joanne Steele.

Chas Martin says
06. 4.12 // 07:10 PM
This was an interesting assault of facts and opinions. It's certainly worth considering. It seemed to focus on the more-bigger-faster aspects of globalization. I think it ignored the most significant point that amid all the high tech there is a stronger than ever need for high touch. The more our focus shifts away from our home community to the global community, the less we appreciate what really matters - our interdependency on people within our physical reach. That is the essence of communities, community organizations, community businesses. An idea: We should give our students loans to explore other communities, understand their problems, discover their challenges. Then bring back what they have learned. Repay their home community with knowledge, perspectives and experiences. They may choose to move on. But they will have enriched their community and paved the way for others to bring new ideas and energy to the community. It's a big world. We cannot live in isolation. And we cannot solve problems without a broader perspective.
Joanne Steele says
06. 5.12 // 07:41 AM
Thanks Chas for the insightful perspective. Whether we encourage young people to physically leave to learn and then bring back, or stay home and use technology to access the wider community and knowledge base, the demand is for them to think bigger, move a few steps further out of their comfort zone and if we're lucky they'll choose to give back to their small town home communities.

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