While there are a growing number of entrepreneurship education opportunities and resources available in Kansas City, few are focused on training teens to start their own business.
Last week, the Kauffman Foundation hosted a pilot project called Teen Idea Labs. The daylong workshop is the brainchild of small business owner William Robison. He came up with the notion of instructing teens about business skills while trying to explain to his own children what he did for a living. Robison currently owns and operates Storybook Realty a niche real estate firm.
“I believe that the future of tech is younger and younger,” Robison said. “These teenagers will be the prime consumers of tomorrow’s products. Why not give them the opportunity to develop some of those products but also foster conversations with mentors that could learn from them as well?”
Thirty teenagers, aged 13 to 18, began the day by attending the weekly educational meetup called 1 Million Cups, where they heard actual entrepreneurs pitching their companies to a live audience. Afterwards, the teens brainstormed potential problems that they could solve with a new product or service.
“Sometimes the people who solve the most challenging engineering problems are the youngest people that don’t understand that there is supposed to be a barrier,” Robison said.
After identifying problems to solve, the teens worked to develop solutions for those problems with the goal of identifying the single best benefit for a potential consumer. After discussing how to pitch ideas with confidence, each team gave a short presentation.
Mentors from Kansas City’s entrepreneurship community were on hand throughout the day to coach and instruct the students using real world examples.
Luke Gaeddert, a student participating in the workshop said, “I want to study entrepreneurship in college. I find it useful talking to people who are actually doing it and living it.”
Robison hopes to expand the program. “I envision something quarterly,” he said.