Entrepreneurship has become cool and trendy in popular media, but to the majority of teenagers and high school students, its meaning is still pretty much non-existent. When I was in high school, the only class that even mentioned the word entrepreneurship was an intro to business elective that discussed it for one week over the semester. We watched a video all week about a cartoon caveman who started a business and built up his community. Besides the fact that we had to know how to spell it correctly on our final exam, this defined the extent of my entrepreneurial knowledge.
Meanwhile, in between juggling homework and after-school sports, I started to tutor younger kids in my neighborhood. It was great to get paid for something that came so easily to me and that I actually thought was fun. While my friends were complaining about their retail jobs, I was so proud that I didn’t have a “real job” — no boss, no stipulated work hours, and no real “work.” Little did I know that I was acting as an entrepreneur, that I could be successful and pursue a path that would never feel like “work.”
It wasn’t until my sophomore year at Bradley University that I finally learned what entrepreneurship really was, when by chance I happened to come across it as a major. Who knew that I could study entrepreneurship and pursue it after school? When I attended my first National Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Conference , I joined over 1,200 other entrepreneurial-minded students from around the world in a setting that proved the realities of being a young business owner and hit me with the entrepreneurial spirit. I only wish I had known at an earlier age that the traditional idea of work doesn’t have to be a reality, and instead of growing up thinking you need to mold you talents and interests to fit a company or employer that will want to hire you, you can do what you love and work to make yourself happy.
Here are some reasons why high schools should teach entrepreneurship:
Early Exposure. Just as students grow up wanting to become a doctor or teacher, being an “entrepreneur” should be taught as realistic of an option. Entrepreneurship allows you to dream your own destiny and craft a job that you can excel at. Whether it’s a small coffee shop or the next Facebook, entrepreneurs design and build businesses that support our nation through job creation and a sense of community. Why aren’t students encouraged to start their own summer business rather than get a summer job? The hands-on experience that you gain as an entrepreneur can help you not only test your limits and teach you about yourself, but the real world can be a better classroom.
Pursue Passion. If you’re going to spend time doing something, why not spend time doing something you love? Rather than waste time, turn a passion or hobby into something that will create value and earn you money. Teens shouldn’t feel like they are wasting their time working just to get a paycheck, and when you are doing something you love, time flies and it doesn’t seem like work.
Resume Builder. What looks better on a resume — someone who started a lawn-mowing business and made sales as a teenage or someone who worked as a cashier in a local supermarket? Whether it’s a lawn care business, a tutoring company, or a jewelry making business, building a company is more impressive that working a minimum wage part-time job. Whether it’s on a college resume or even for a position at another company, the characteristics and skill sets required by an entrepreneur are in high-demand in our society and reveal a lot about an individual. Being an entrepreneur demonstrates a work ethic and level of hard work and commitment that can make someone successful in any situation.
High school is the perfect time to explore opportunities for the future. Don’t think that students need to wait until college or that they need experience first. Don’t wait to take action! If you are a high school student, find a mentor or someone that can support you on your entrepreneurial journey. Set your goals, create a plan of action and get started! There are many great books that can teach you, but hands-on experience is the best teacher.