Teaching business basics to kids
Today a lemonade stand. Tomorrow, the world! A nonprofit is helping develop entrepreneurship in children.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business) - Are children too young to learn to be entrepreneurs?
Tim Draper, a partner in the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, doesn't think so. Draper believes so strongly in exposing youngsters to running a business that he created the BizWorld Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches the fundamentals to youngsters from 8 to 13 years old.
In the curriculum he designed, classes make friendship bracelets, then learn how to market and sell their wares. They also learn how to use balance sheets -- something that many adults don't master until they're in the thick of managing a business.
"To create great entrepreneurs, you have to have children explore the world," says Draper, a celebrated dealmaker whose recent investments include the Internet telephony company Skype, which eBay (Research) acquired for $2.6 billion.
Educators are responding to Draper's message. The number of classrooms offering BizWorld's ten-hour enrichment program jumped to 1,279 by December 2005, a 67 percent increase from the previous year, says Catherine Hutton, BizWorld's CEO and executive director.
That growth comes despite the challenges of selling the idea to teachers who are pressed to emphasize the basics. "It's very difficult to find classroom time," she says.
Will the program, founded in 1997, create the next Michael Dell? So far none of the graduates, the oldest of whom are in college, have started their own businesses. However, one fifth-grade class at West Madison Elementary School in Madison City, Ala., opened a store to sell school supplies.
Nicole Gray, dean and enrichment teacher at Bronx Preparatory Charter School in New York City, said that when she tried to persuade students to enroll in BizWorld, their reaction was, "Eeew, business." But, she said, those who tried it loved it.
Bronx Preparatory student Fausto Il Defonso, 12, said it sparked his interest in starting a company someday, "A name-brand business like Nike."
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