Sarah Short has seen first hand how empowering youth can propel them to great things. As the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Officer at Enterprise Greater Moncton (EGM), she leads youth initiatives aimed at fostering young talent in the region.
“What I have seen come out of young people’s minds – their ideas for changing their school, their community and even the world – is so inspiring. We need to find more opportunities to really listen to and empower our youth.”
One of the ways EGM does this is through its popular Youth Entrepreneurship Camps. The camps are open to 9-12 year olds and take place in Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview in late July/early August. In one week, kids come up with a product that they can sell, develop a business plan, receive a $20 loan, shop for their supplies and sell their product during Market Day on the last day of camp.
“Last year, the kids made and sold things like jewellery, paintings, cotton candy… One of the most financially successful businesses was Treat-Kabobs – strawberries and marshmallows arranged on a skewer – which of course sold out in minutes.”
Short says the community is very supportive. A lot of people show up for market day. But what is best is the impact it has on the kids.
“One boy came into the camp very shy, barely saying anything. By the end of the week, he decided he was going to be an entrepreneur. He had always wanted to work for a certain company. Now, he was telling his mom that not only would he work for that company, but he would own it and be its boss.”
“Another girl already had her own catering business, selling cupcakes for parties. She gave examples of how she does business, and it brought this very real young person’s perspective on being a business owner. It showed the kids that they can continue to be entrepreneurial even when the camp ends.”
Short is also involved with the annual Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC), now in its 9th year. The event will take place on May 15th 2014 in Moncton.
“Our Little Leaders category for grades K-6 rewards innovative and creative student-driven classroom projects. For grades 7-12, we have both the Innovative Idea category allowing students to pitch a business idea and the Social Enterprise category encouraging students to come up with solutions to real world problems.”
Older youth (16+) who are interested in creating a summer business through the SEED program get to compete in the Summer Venture category with the chance of winning a cash prize to help set up their business. And, new this year, the Idea Catalyst category (18-35 year olds) will aim to help youth propel an innovative business idea to its next steps. Winners will be offered training/mentorship with Planet Hatch, an entrepreneurial hub that connects startups to the best resources in order to help them soar.
“Finalists from around the province are brought in to Moncton. They pitch their ideas and projects to a judging panel, much like Dragons Den. The finalists are also able to network and interact with people in the audience – forging important connections with key business leaders and organisations in the community.”
Short says that the YEC is a great opportunity for New Brunswick teachers to integrate entrepreneurial projects into their curriculum. Competing in the prestigious YEC really motivates the students.
Such youth initiatives also create an important bridge in the generational gap, encouraging young people to get involved in discussions about our communities, our province and our world’s future.
“We need to encourage our youth to take on risks and be innovative. Sometimes, I think that one of our greatest weaknesses in this province is our fear of trying new things. Our programs tell youth “Good for you for trying! If it did not work, try again.” That’s fostering an entrepreneurial spirit. And this attitude has to start with our youth.”
Nathalie Landry is a freelance writer and communications consultant. Her communications for social change consulting practice, Echo Actions, is dedicated to helping non-profits and small businesses who want to change the world find the right medium and audience for their message. @EchoActions
Enterprise Greater Moncton: http://www.greatermoncton.org
Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge 2014: http://www.greatermoncton.org/en/yec
Enterprise Greater Moncton Youth Entrepreneurship Camp: http://www.greatermoncton.org/en/youth-entrepreneurship-camp
SEED Student Entrepreneurship Program: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/services/services_renderer.16976.html
Planet Hatch: http://planethatch.com/en
Dragon’s Den: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/