Entrepreneurs aren’t just born. Like any other endeavor, there are natural talents involved, but building a business takes an incredible amount of work and knowledge. It’s one thing to have an idea; it’s something else to figure out financing, marketing, advertising, manufacturing….
At Verily magazine, Krizia Liquido tells of a program aimed at high school girls to help them learn necessary skills for entrepreneurial success. “Entrepreneurs in Training,” a 10-day intensive workshop, takes place at Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies in New York.
During the ten-day program, seventeen high-school students— selected through a rigorous application process—make real-world discoveries of what it means to be a female entrepreneur today. For many of these young women, this program is their very first exposure to the dynamics of entrepreneurship. Seventeen-year-old Olivia Cochran of Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania once thought being an entrepreneur was just someone who was involved in business, like the president of a company…
Every girl in the program must come up with a unique product, and those ideas are discussed with small groups. The program focuses on the creation of products that make a positive impact in people’s lives. For instance, one young lady, Olivia, came up with a cell phone app that prevents teens from using their cell phones while driving. It alerts friends and family that you’re on the road, and can’t take calls or texts. She is hoping to develop the app for Android.
Once a product is pitched, then learning kicks into high gear.
We’re just working on defining our product—which, for many companies, can take months. Then we make a big pitch and talk to investors who give us feedback. Then we can move forward with the idea if we like,” says Olivia.
The pitch panel includes 10 people who range from a personal finance expert to an advisor to early stage companies—they’re all involved in the startup world. Olivia confides, “The nerves will probably hit me right before we go on. The only business pitches I’ve ever seen are on that TV show Shark Tank. So I’m excited to see what it will be like.”
For Olivia, the experience has been priceless.
You see the brainpower. You see the one who talks to everybody. It’s a really neat process to see everyone collaborating together. Within my team, I’ve learned how to adapt because it wasn’t my idea originally. You couldn’t be annoyed that your idea wasn’t chosen or just think it wasn’t good enough. You have to learn to negotiate, to find a middle ground that we both agree on. These are important skills to have. You sometimes need to take ideas, make them your own and truly love them.
Andreas Widmer, co-founder of the SEVEN Fund and successful entrepreneur, knows that the skills the girls learn at such a program are fundamental to success in helping to solve problems, create businesses and jobs:
It’s a culture of looking at something and saying, I’m going to take responsibility and solve this problem or solve this issue, or even, not from a negative perspective, from the positive perspective, to say, I have confidence so I’m going to realize this dream of mine. I believe that I can realize my vision and create a company and do it. That is, a forward looking positive attitude that comes out of your culture, and that is something that needs to be supported locally.
Certainly, Olivia and the rest of the young ladies who have had the experience of Entrepreneurs in Training are learning that type of confidence, and the skills necessary to back up their visions.