Twenty-three middle schoolers and 13 high schoolers created 25 business or nonprofit ideas in the first two-hour Running Start workshop for young entrepreneurs last month.
Local entrepreneur Debra Power, owner of Power Marketing Research, announced Running Start's launch in autumn 2017 with the goal of having an initial workshop series start in February 2018. She later decided that was overly ambitious and moved the first series to April 21. This four-week run of the program will continue until May 12. The weekly workshops are held at GO Where Meetings Matter, 4735 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor.
The first round of participants heard presentations from Jonathan Goldstein and Komal Doshi of Ann Arbor SPARK; Brian Christian of The Inovo Group; Beth Simon of NewFoundry; and Naja Prince, a 14-year-old who started her own business called Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats at age 11.
The first workshop had participants working through a 40-page workbook and asking themselves questions to generate a viable business ideas, including "What problem do you want to solve in the world?" and "What's a product you'd like to have that doesn't already exist?"
Power says business ideas ranged from upcycling clothing to nonprofits benefiting homeless youth to a way to provide more exposure to high school athletes.
During the second week, attendees worked on a "business grid," thinking through who their business' target demographics are and how they will sell a product. Staff members from accounting firm Plante Moran will help participants with budget exercises that show how businesses make money, and how they have to spend money on items such as employee payroll, utilities, and rent.
Power says she is learning as she goes along and may cap attendance at future sessions.
"We're learning a little about the dynamics of how these workshops work, and in the future, the ideal number of students will probably be around 20," she says. "That allows for the ultimate amount of interaction."
Power says that when she started the program, she was thinking of how she could help others, but she's surprised at what she is already gaining from it.
"I never envisioned it would be this incredibly rewarding experience for myself and volunteers," she says. "Everyone involved has said that it's one of those classic situations where you get more than you give. I am so inspired by the fact that youth are thinking entrepreneurially. It gives me hope for the future."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Running Start.