Lowe’s young Entrepreneurs consider being their own bossPublished 11:33am Monday, April 19, 2010
By NANCY GOODRICH
CASSOPOLIS – This marks the fifth year that the Edward Lowe Foundation will sponsor two Young Entrepreneurs Day events that give high school students from Cass, Van Buren and Berrien counties a chance to jump-start career plans.
On April 23 some 40 Cass County students will visit the foundation’s headquarters at Big Rock Valley near Cassopolis.
There, they will present business plans they developed during entrepreneurship classes offered through their schools.
The presentations will be made to local business leaders who serve as mentors.
Similarly, on May 5 about 250 students from Van Buren and Berrien counties will travel to Lake Michigan College to share business plans and portfolios created through the counties‚ career and technical education programs.
Attendees also have the opportunity to attend a variety of career-related seminars.
“We are delighted the Edward Lowe Foundation can again sponsor Young Entrepreneurs Day,” says Dan Wyant, the foundation’s president and COO.
“It provides southwest Michigan youth with skills and experiences that will serve them well throughout their lifetimes.”
Prior to Young Entrepreneurs Day, students work individually or team up with a partner to prepare their business plans.
These plans must clearly define everything from the overview of their product or service to marketing, operations, management and finances.
Young Entrepreneurs Day then allows the aspiring entrepreneurs to make interactive presentations about their start-up companies as if they were meeting with potential investors.
Mentors ask questions, provide encouragement, make suggestions and assess each area of the plan according to set criteria and expectations.
For Cass County students, part of the day also involves participating in a challenging leadership activity.
Dino Signore, manager of program development at Edward Lowe Foundation, guides an exercise designed to illustrate the demands of being a leader and the importance of teamwork.
“It stresses how important resources are for a young entrepreneur,” Signore says. “These resources can be money, but they can also be time and energy.”
Another benefit of the exercise, students must interact with their peers from different schools.
“Leaders need to understand how to work with a diverse group and develop skills to be at ease in new social settings,” Signore says.
At the end of the Cass County Young Entrepreneurs Day, each student receives a certificate recognizing their efforts.
Mentors’ evaluations are tabulated later, and high scorers receive a $50 savings bond.
Yet the event remains an experience rather than a competition, says Joan Forburger, director of career technical education for Lewis Cass Intermediate School District.
Indeed, the primary goal of Young Entrepreneurs Day is to spur interest in entrepreneurship among community youth.
“Ed Lowe recognized the value of the entrepreneur to our economy,” says Darlene Lowe, the foundation’s chairman and CEO.
“He was a lifelong learner and said ‘every person he met was a textbook and every experience a teacher.’ He would have told these young people to dream big, listen to the voice of experience, work hard, and ‘Go for it!’ ”
Tommy First, a junior at Cassopolis Ross Beatty High School, seems to be following such a path.
He is now looking at colleges that have a strong business and entrepreneurship program and says that participating in Young Entrepreneurs Day last year was a big influence.
Although it was time-consuming and hard work to do the research, write his plan and practice his presentation with his teacher, First became immersed in the project.
“It gave me good experience and helped me realize what it’s going to be like in the real world,” he explains.
Established in 1985, the Edward Lowe Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurship through research, recognition and educational programs, which are delivered through entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs).
The foundation focuses on second-stage companies – those that have moved beyond the startup phase and seek significant, steady growth.