Startup Day: Tip of the Entrepreneurship Spear for High School Students

Startup Day: Tip of the Entrepreneurship Spear for High School Students

In November of last year, we had the opportunity to launch our first ever High School Startup Day. In partnership with Junior Achievement and the Innovation Hub, we welcomed over 100 students, 10 teachers, and 10 mentors to engage in the startup process to tackle a social sector issue.

Since beginning in the summer of 2013, our constant experimentation process at Noble Impact has afforded us the opportunity to learn in an environment that embraces ambiguity and organized chaos. Developing new experiences and events for students requires that we do this type work if we want to challenge the status quo while offering entrepreneurial curriculum and programming. Startup Day is just one example of our work, which is supported by our certified curriculum through the Arkansas Department of Career and Technical Education (CTE), which any Arkansas High School may utilize as a program of study.

Startup Day is special in its own right because it introduces students to the dichotomy of “What is…” and “What could be…” while exposing them to new environments outside of the classroom and outside of the school building. My friend Nick Seguin stated it best when talking about how a startup event benefits students. Nick says, “it serves as an access point to entrepreneurship.”

At Noble Impact, our purpose is to increase access and opportunity for every student we serve. Therefore, we are excited to announce that our 2nd High School Startup Day will take place at the University of Central Arkansas within the UCA College of Business. Through this event, our partnership continues with Junior Achievement and we’re also developing a new partnership with the Conductor, which is spearheaded by Jeff Standridge and Kim Lane. We will again be sponsored by Startup Junkie Consulting, who continues to be a champion of entrepreneurial growth and education throughout the state of Arkansas.

Although we’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot since beginning in 2013, we continue to ask ourselves, “What if?”

And so, it begs the question…

What if we launched High School Startup Days around the state of Arkansas that served as the access point to entrepreneurship for all students?

Answer: Maybe we’d get more feedback and reflection like we heard from North Little Rock Senior, Jayvin Johnson.

If you’d like to know more about High School Startup Day, come out and see it in action…just RSVP!

When: March 16th | 9:30am–1:00pm

Where: UCA College of Business

3 Ways To Fight Isolation As A Young Entrepreneur

3 Ways To Fight Isolation As A Young Entrepreneur

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

It sounds crazy that isolation would be a problem for entrepreneurs, right? How could this be when what many people believe about entrepreneurs is that they have a fun and exciting life, meet lots of interesting people, and are popular in the party scene. Those things can be true if you are successful. However, starting out as a teen entrepreneur can be quite different than that.

For Joshua, our teen entrepreneur, the year after high school was the worst. In high school, he was reasonably popular, elected Vice President of his senior class, and involved in typical high school things when he wasn’t working on business projects. After graduation, however, he found himself in no man’s land. His friends had all gone off to college and he was still living at home. He decided to pursue growing the company instead of attending college. In order to conserve investor’s cash, he wasn’t taking compensation from his company, so he couldn’t afford to move out. His company was in a trademark dispute with a large gaming company which caused their progress to grind to a halt while they were in legal limbo. His co-founders had another company to run, which was their primary focus. That’s a lot to handle at eighteen years old.

Joshua felt very isolated. He was gradually creeping into a dark place. He didn’t see his friends often. His peers in the entrepreneurial world were all at least ten years older than he was, and he felt he had little in common with them. His relationship with us, and especially me, was deteriorating. He didn’t want to be where he was, but he felt trapped.

What resources are out there to help with this?

  • School clubs – Involvement in clubs, either as a member or instructor, is a good way to interact and maybe even help others. Many young entrepreneurs I’ve met already know much more about business, product development and technology than the typical high school student in Junior Achievement or Future Business Leaders of America programs. If that is the case, ask the program director or sponsor about being an instructor for some of the topics. If there are no clubs like this in your school or area, start one.
  • State associations and maker spaces – There are a number of associations and networks that provide a forum for interaction with other young entrepreneurs. If you are in a highly populated area, odds are there is an association or maker space located near you as these entities have proliferated in recent years. If you are in a more rural area, search for regional or state organizations and get connected with them. The network has value.
  • National associations and networks – At the national level there are a number of associations and networks for young entrepreneurs, including Youth Biz, Young Entrepreneur Council, and Young Entrepreneur Academy.

In addition to the above, a good list of a dozen national and international organizations for teen and young adult entrepreneurs can be found in this Entrepreneur article, entitled, “12 Organizations Entrepreneurs Need to Join.” Also check out TeenBusiness, an informative website for teen entrepreneurs.

As we look back on our experience, as a young entrepreneur, Joshua was always a bit isolated from a normal teen life. While he was a likeable person with a good personality, his interests and priorities were different from his classmates. He wasn’t involved in many extracurricular activities, because most of his time outside class was spent working on his company or other products and projects. Once he stopped playing basketball and soccer, making things became his sport.

For Joshua, his situation improved when the legal matters were finally settled and he was able to move in with some of his high school classmates who were in college. That restored his sense of independence and the company could finally move forward again.

THE TAKEAWAY: Being a young entrepreneur can be exciting, but also lonely, at times. You are only alone if you want to be. Don’t let yourself become isolated when you are surrounded by resources. Reach out, get the support you need, and stay engaged.

14 Resources For Young Entrepreneurs In Arkansas

14 Resources For Young Entrepreneurs In Arkansas

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

There was such interest in my previous post on how parents can help encourage their teens to pursue interest in STEM and entrepreneurial endeavors, that I decided to add some information to the partial list of programs mentioned in that post.

For young entrepreneurs in Arkansas, here is a list of 14 resources that can help bolster an interest in entrepreneurship and STEM subjects. Find one near you and engage in the programs or volunteer to help.

  1. Y.E.S. – The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Capital, created the Youth Entrepreneur Showcase (Y.E.S.) for Arkansas business plan competition in 2005 to introduce young Arkansans in grades 5-8 to the potential and opportunities of entrepreneurship.
  2. EAST – The EAST program, a project-based learning program that teaches kids coding, video production, how to use design and GPS mapping software, and develop websites, is already in 200+ schools around the state.
  3. Arkansas Innovation Hub – Nonprofit organization with a maker space (lots of cool 3D printers, microprocessors, etc . . .) dedicated to talent and enterprise development in an environment where Arkansas entrepreneurs and innovators find support for success.
  4. Art Connection – A student art program located inside the Arkansas Innovation Hub
  5. Noble Impact – An education initiative that exposes students to relevant experiences and tools that enable them to navigate a world defined by uncertainty with an entrepreneurial skill set and a public service mindset.
  6. STEM Coalition – A statewide partnership of leaders from the corporate, education, government and community sectors which plans, encourages, coordinates and advocates policies, strategies, and programs supportive of excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in order to expand the economy of Arkansas and produce higher paying jobs. STEM Centers around the state may be found here.
  7. 100 Girls of Code – The mission of 100 Girls of Code is to achieve gender parity in STEM fields by introducing more young women to code and computer engineering at a young age. It seeks to inspire more girls to pursue a future in STEM. Check out the NWA Chapter.
  8. First Robotics – The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
  9. Best Robotics – In these project-based STEM program students learn to analyze and solve problems utilizing the Engineering Design Process, which helps them develop technological literacy skills. Programs exist in Jonesboro, Harrison, Little Rock, and Fort Smith.
  10. Arkansas Out-of-School Network – A network of after school programs around the state. A few notables include:
  11. Lastly, the following four museums also foster content with a focus on STEM and learning by doing:

  12. Arts and Science and Kids Museums’ Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (Pine Bluff)
  13. Museum of Discovery (Little Rock)
  14. Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs)
  15. Amazeum (Bentonville)

Do you know of a program in Arkansas that’s helping kids and teens follow their interests into STEM or entrepreneurship? If so, add it in the comments below!

Passion: How Important Is It For Young Entrepreneurs?

Passion: How Important Is It For Young Entrepreneurs?

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

I’ll save you the suspense. The answer is “VERY IMPORTANT.” But what exactly does that mean for a young entrepreneur who is 13-23 years old? How does their passion manifest itself in what they do and how they think? How can they have a passion for something they know little about at that age?

Our experience with our own teen entrepreneur is very informative. Joshua started tearing apart McDonald’s Happy Meals when he was really young. This could have been viewed as destructive behavior, and we could have made him stop. However, his destruction of these toys was more like disassembly than tearing them apart. He didn’t smash them unless it was his only option, because his goal was to learn how they worked. He did this, sometimes to our dismay, with lots of items including phones (wish he would have limited this to our old phones), cameras, speakers, computers, and electronics, in general. This activity, combined with the Internet research he did on his own as he got older, was how he learned about electronics, printed circuit boards, and power supplies, and it’s also how he learned how to program software to control the electronics.

That is what I’m talking about when I say passion is important for young entrepreneurs. At a young age, with limited other skill sets and resources, their passions manifest themselves in what they spend their time doing. When Joshua had free time to do whatever he wanted, he chose building or researching product development. That’s when we knew he had the necessary passion to be an entrepreneur.

I had a passion for sports when I was young. I started playing organized sports when I was 8 years old but spent far more time outside of team practice trying to hone my skills. While it was fun, my passion didn’t match my natural ability, and when I got to college, I realized I had reached the limits of my natural talent. However, all that time spent on my passion for sports did not go to waste. In the process of trying to be the best athlete I could be, I learned so many other things from sports, including:

  • how to work in, and lead, a team
  • how to work with people you don’t necessarily like
  • work ethic
  • sacrifice
  • loyalty
  • discipline
  • game planning
  • how to perform under pressure
  • what my limits appear to be and how to push myself beyond them, if necessary

While I didn’t realize I needed them, all of these are critical soft skills. I’ve used them every day for decades now. Young entrepreneurs MUST learn these soft skills as well. So, I had a passion for something that I didn’t have the natural talent to pursue at some point, but, in pursuing my passion, I developed these soft skills that are the core of who I am and what I do for a living. I got what I needed, even when I didn’t know I needed it. Funny how that happens.

The final point here is that passion can’t be taught. As parents, it is our job to expose our kids to a variety of experiences so that they can sort out for themselves the things for which they have both natural talent and great passion. Joshua was a gifted athlete, but he did not have a passion for it. He played a variety of organized sports from age 5 through his sophomore year in high school. He enjoyed sports and, like me, learned many things from the experience. However, he seldom practiced outside of an organized team practice. That was a sign that he didn’t have the passion to pursue sports long term. Remember the 10,000-hours-to-mastery theory? His passion for developing products eventually overshadowed his attraction to sports. He dropped out of sports to pursue entrepreneurship. That appears to have been a good decision for him.

THE TAKEAWAY: Passion without talent will only take you so far. Talent without passion is unfulfilling. Young people, and especially young entrepreneurs, have to try out lots of activities to help them identify those for which they have a passion so strong that they will push themselves to develop the necessary level of talent to be successful. Most people, it seems, never discover this intersection of passion and talent for themselves. For entrepreneurs, finding this intersection is imperative for success, because the passion required to sustain the effort is great, and the skill set is vast.

5 Questions To Consider When Making The College Vs. Startup Decision

5 Questions To Consider When Making The College Vs. Startup Decision

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

Not long ago Gwen (my spouse), Joshua (our teen entrepreneur), and I went through the process of deciding whether Joshua would attend college right out of high school or run his angel funded tech company full time. We get quite a few questions on this so I thought it might be beneficial for both parents and teens if I walked you through the process and the key questions our family considered.

Let me set the stage for this commentary with some background. Joshua’s company was selected as one of three finalists in the ARK Challenge business accelerator when he was a junior in high school and acquired $150k in angel funding as a result. This was great, but the company would need more funding to be successful, so it was only the beginning. Gwen was pretty strong in her opinion that Joshua should go to college. Less risk and he’ll need the degree to get a job someday, she reasoned. I had come around to thinking that college was still a good idea but that it didn’t have to happen in the traditional time frame given his current business opportunity. Joshua placed a high value on his Catholic High education but was far more interested in product design and development than tolerating what he thought was an inefficient higher education system where he would get very little of the practical experience he needed.

1. IF HE DOESN’T GO TO COLLEGE RIGHT AWAY, CAN HE MAKE IT ON HIS OWN?
In Joshua’s case, we had little doubt about this one. He’d been making his own money since he was 13 by hacking the iPhones of his classmates (a practice Gwen and I stopped when we found out), repairing smartphones and computers, and editing pictures and videos. He never asked for an allowance.

2. BEYOND SURVIVAL, DID JOSHUA HAVE THE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE, AND MINDSET TO LAUNCH A SELF-DIRECTED CAREER?
No! He still had so much to learn about technology, project management, dealing with people, and a whole host of soft skills that come only from experience. Yet, he had a burning passion for the work and a drive to succeed. We had little doubt that, while it would be a struggle at times, he would figure it out.

3. WERE THERE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WITH MAJORS THAT FIT HIS BROAD INTEREST IN TECHNOLOGY AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Yes, some, at least on paper. The number of universities offering entrepreneurship programs has exploded right along with the public’s interest in technology, high profile entrepreneurs and the new found cool factor in being a geek. What we found in our research was that very few of these programs incorporated real-world experience with academics and even fewer had a culture where science, engineering, design, and business were truly integrated. As much as they touted that students and professors in various colleges did joint projects, the typical silos still existed.

4. WAS IT IMPORTANT TO ATTEND A COLLEGE IN AN ENTREPRENEURIAL CITY?
Absolutely! Because I am somewhat familiar with entrepreneurial cities around the country and the resources they offer, I knew it was important that the school be located in one of these cities. Even if the academic program proved to be less experiential than anticipated, access to the entrepreneurial community would provide access to talent, opportunity and experience. Our research of colleges focused on highly ranked programs of study where science, engineering, design, and entrepreneurship were highly integrated in schools located highly ranked entrepreneurial cites.

5. WHILE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL, WAS BUSINESS OR GOOD GRADES FOR COLLEGE THE TOP PRIORITY?
This was a tough one for us. There was a constant balancing act between spending time on the startup and studying. His high school, Catholic High, was demanding and Joshua took great pride in doing well there. We felt our role as parents was to help Joshua learn how to make these decisions on a case by case basis, with the help of some basic guiding principles, so that he could learn the skill of prioritizing multiple things that all seemed important. Thus, school was not always the top priority and we accepted lower grades and test scores that we knew might keep Joshua from being accepted into certain universities or hurt his qualification for scholarships.

THE TAKEAWAY: This was, and still is, a challenging situation for us all. Like most tough decisions, with the “college vs startup” decision, you have to ask yourself the hard, penetrating questions and not be afraid of the honest answer. Having some guiding principles to help you decide and keep you on track are important. Parents and teen entrepreneurs must honestly assess each path and the preparation, passion and skill it will take to be successful with each one. As with most situations in life and business, if you don’t manage them, they will manage you.

Why K-12 Entrepreneurial Education Is Critical To A Student’s Success

Why K-12 Entrepreneurial Education Is Critical To A Student’s Success

“Honestly, I didn’t even know it was an option,” she said.

A recent college graduate, she sat across the table from me at the Venture Center explaining that she didn’t even know places like the Venture Center existed.

“I always assumed that entrepreneurs were special. They had all the connections or money,” she continued. “But now I see that anyone can do it. You don’t just have to settle for any old job.”

The Venture Center recently welcomed a group of students from eStem High School’s Noble Impact program in an effort to expose students to the community’s entrepreneurial resources.

Where Does Entrepreneurial Education Start?

Entrepreneurism begins with the realization that launching a new business is possible. If you never understand that opening a startup is a career choice, you never try. Entrepreneurism remains distant. It is something “out there.” It’s not a viable option.

How many great ideas never make it to market? How many remarkable businesses never launch simply because those who would have launched them never believed they were possible?

Noble Impact exposes high school students to the startup community. But that’s not all. Students also explore key components of the startup community and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The most important thing that Noble Impact has done for students at eStem is that the program has exposed them to real world environments and relationships.

Tim Freeman of Hark TV chats with Noble Impact students
Tim Freeman of Hark TV chats with Noble Impact students

What would happen if entrepreneurism were just a “normal” career option in the minds of young startup leaders?

To change students’ mindsets, they have to be exposed to the idea in the early stages of their development.

Entrepreneurship education at the K-12 level is not only important, it’s critical. We live in a world of constant change and we can’t wait to introduce students to real world education until they leave high school.

— Chad Williamson, Noble Impact facilitator at eStem

If students are not exposed to the “real world” until they leave high school, they are at a disadvantage. Today, though, the barrier for entry in entrepreneurism is lower than it has ever been. Due to rapid technological advancements, if a student isn’t turning his/her interests into marketable skills, he/she may already be behind.

High school students are learning to code like their parents learned a second language. Many of these budding developers are launching apps and web platforms to solve real-life problems that impact their daily lives.

The students who are taught to assess risk are able to craft a business model and position and launch their solution as a product in the market place. As a result, they set themselves up for success in the workplace.

Why Is Early Entrepreneurial Education Important?

Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Venture Center
Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Venture Center
Chad Williamson, lead Noble Impact facilitator at eStem, also points out that “An understanding of the startup ecosystem is valuable to all students because it’s deeply rooted in risk-taking and high-level communication.”

Life involves risk. Those who have the greatest skills in mitigating and minimizing risk advance in all areas of life. Teaching students to analyze and navigate risk in a real world setting allows them to make smaller mistakes with moderated consequences.

This opportunity helps to develop greater emotional intelligence, an important component of a successful entrepreneur. Investors want to know that the entrepreneur has an investable idea, but they also want to know that the entrepreneur is an investable person, says Lou McAlister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Venture Center.

When people learn that entrepreneurism is a career option and they develop the emotional fortitude to process and minimize risk, they are positioned to move into the startup community with a strong foundation. They come to the market as an investable person. The energy of their efforts can be focused on producing the best, most investable business idea.

Why a Strong Startup Community?

One of the key components to a strong entrepreneurial community is diversity. In a thriving community, all elements are welcomed. Diversity is celebrated.

Why is diversity important?

I’m all about the boats rising together, the importance of diversity, and being fiercely conscious of inclusivity … more people will want to be part of the game. Strong entrepreneurial ecosystems drive economic growth, educational outcomes and relationships.

— Chad Williamson, Noble Impact facilitator at eStem

The greatest result of a strong entrepreneurial community is an expansion of the “pie.” The more ideas that are fostered, the larger the economic pie grows.

Entrepreneurism gives each member of the community an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the larger economic pie, and it provides an opportunity for other community members to experience the economic benefit of that expansion.

What is the Bottom Line?

Educating students early about entrepreneurism gives them options. Options bring hope. Exposure to real life communities, growth and innovation enables students to be stronger people with a high emotional intelligence. It prepares them to compete in the marketplace—whether they launch their own business or contribute to the success of someone else’s.

When students’ mindsets are success-oriented, we all win.

This post originally appeared in Arkansas Money & Politics, where Steve Rice is an avid contributor.

What Are The Requirements For Success?

What Are The Requirements For Success?

Most of the guest speakers for Noble 201 agree about the importance of being passionate about what you’re doing, but they all have different requirements for what it means to be successful. Some speakers say that “education isn’t the (sole) way to start a business,” (Jordan Carlisle, co-founder of Strengthen app), while others, like Propak founder and Nobel Impact chairman Steve Clark, stress that experience got them where they are today.

Below is a look at what I’ve gleaned from Noble 201’s guest speakers and their philosophies on success. In short, having experience, a problem, and passion seem to be the basis for forging a pass towards success.

Experience Is Key

Steve Clark speaks with Noble Impact scholars
Steve Clark speaks at the Arkansas Fellowship speakers series, which Noble Impact scholars attended.
While all of the speakers fully encourage going to college and talk about how it can be beneficial in a person’s life, they emphasize that college is not necessary to success. Jordan Carlisle and photographer John David Pittman are two examples of speakers who went to college, got degrees in a certain area, and went on to have successful careers in completely different fields.

When serial entrepreneur and Arkansan Steve Clark says that he became successful because of his experience, he isn’t necessarily talking about going to college and getting a degree just to get a degree. The meaning I extracted from Steve Clark’s Q&A at the Arkansas Fellowship speakers series event, which Noble Impact students had the opportunity to attend, was that you need to have education, or experience, in what you are doing. That doesn’t necessarily mean college.

Solve A Problem

Although there are disagreements on other “requirements” for success, every guest speaker agrees, finding a problem is key to being successful. You can’t think of a solution to address a problem if you don’t identify the problem. Additionally, Steve Clark brought up the point of having the mindset of solving for “x,” and to “see a problem, fix a problem.”

Jeston George Apptegy visit
Noble Impact 201 students visit local tech startup, Apptegy.
Human-Centered Design, an approach taken by design firm IDEO, adds to this thought — it’s a concept we are highlighting this year in Noble. You have to identify a problem and form the solution based on what the community around you desires. This is extremely important in being successful, because if you create a solution, but no one finds it desirable, you won’t find success. In fact, CB Insights says that the top reason startups fail (42% of the startups they analyzed) is because there is “No Market Need.”

However, Jeston George made the point that sometimes people don’t know what they want. His business, Apptegy, which the Noble 201 scholars visited, helps schools update all of their social media platforms at once in an effort to keep everyone up to date. His original idea was to create an app for schools to communicate with parents, however, no school wanted “another thing to update,” so George created a solution that schools didn’t know they wanted.

Passion Or Pass

Anita Roddick The Body Shop
Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.
Another debatable “requirement” for being successful is passion. Almost all of the speakers have become successful in something they are passionate about. Personally, I agree with Anita Roddick, who wasn’t a guest speaker, but who is a very successful businesswoman and founder of The Body Shop, who says: “To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame; the correct or desired result of an attempt; someone or something that is successful, a person or thing that succeeds.”

Despite being different than the set definition of success, I think Steve Clark says it best: “Success is being able to do what I want, when I want, with who I want.”

Success is what you make it, so make it good.

A Mentor’s Role In Managing Risk

A Mentor’s Role In Managing Risk

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

Recently, for about 30 seconds, I witnessed something that reminded me of the role of startup mentors.

I was leaving the library in Fayetteville, Arkansas and noticed a mother and her young daughter walking along the natural stone that lines the beautifully landscaped flower beds outside the building. The young girl appeared to be around three or four years old. She was walking along the rock boundaries of the elevated flower beds. Her mother walked along beside her, just below on the ground, with her arms stretched toward her daughter, just in case she started to fall. I was struck by the fearlessness of the young girl. She seemed undaunted by the potential risks of walking on a narrow, elevated ledge. Her mother mitigated the risk of injury by walking just below her on the ground, allowing her daughter to experience what it was like to be that far off the ground on a narrow ledge. Because of the trust the daughter had in her mother, she did not fear falling.

This reminded me of entrepreneurs, especially young ones, who don’t know, or choose to ignore, the risk of failure. They charge ahead to save the world, create the next great product or discover something the rest of us don’t know exists, without regard for their own personal or financial well being. They do these things simply because they believe they can and failure is really not even part of the thought process. We could all use a dose of that way of thinking. It’s liberating.

The mother reminded me of what good mentors are supposed to do for entrepreneurs. If an entrepreneur is lucky, he or she will have at least one really good mentor early in the entrepreneurial journey. The mom did not panic when she saw her daughter in that situation. A worried reaction may have startled the daughter and caused her to fall. Instead, she let her daughter have the experience, guided and reassured her along the way and made sure that, if she did fall, someone would be there to break her fall and help her up … to try again.

As a mentor to these young risk takers, I believe that is exactly what we are supposed to do — assist them in the process of managing risk. Stay close, provide our best guidance, let them learn through experience which will include failure, and don’t let them fall so hard that they don’t get up and try again.

As the father of a young entrepreneur, I experience the phenomenon described above with the mom and daughter, in a different way, every day. Joshua’s confidence and fearlessness are simply part of who he is. As his parent and business mentor, I have chosen to embrace his fearlessness, but put boundaries in place to limit his risk of failing so horribly that he’s afraid to try again. He has seen that I am not afraid for him to pursue his ideas and that I have confidence in him. I believe this further bolsters his fearlessness. Like a good mentor, I walk just a step behind, in case he starts to fall off the ledge.

THE TAKEAWAY: Young entrepreneurs – Be fearless and seek out good mentors for support. For, families, friends, and mentors of these young startup leaders – support their trapeze act, but be ready with the net.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Miki Yoshihito

How The Startup Community Enhances The Noble Impact Experience

How The Startup Community Enhances The Noble Impact Experience

For some students, the search for apprenticeships through the Noble 301 program (a part of the Noble Impact organization) has not yet turned up concrete opportunities; nonetheless, we have all learned many valuable skills. In class, my peers and I have built personal pitch decks, learned the ins and outs of networking, and met with the founders of several local startups to learn more about that portion of the local entrepreneurial community.

In the process of reaching out for opportunities, one is frequently faced with the request, “tell me a little bit about yourself.” Often times, this is met with jumbled, unorganized, and drawn-out responses that may or may not reflect one’s best and most redeeming qualities. In class, these Noble Impactivists were required to build a 60-second pitch deck that briefly but effectively conveys who they are, what they are passionate about, and what their value to a potential partner company is. At the end of this process, many students pitched themselves to Graham Cobb, Chief Operating Officer of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, who was able to introduce some to possible apprenticeship matches. Through the process of focusing their own ambitions, these students learned more about themselves as individuals and as a classroom-based community.

The students who already knew Chad Williamson, the eStem High School Noble 301 facilitator, know that networking is what he cites as the best way to build one’s resources for personal benefit and to gain future opportunities. The members of the Noble 301 class were all required to build LinkedIn profiles, create bio pages, and add their profile to a comprehensive Noble ‘class showcase’ sheet. Chad is hoping that these resources can be used by students and Noble Impact to effectively reach out to others in the community in order to obtain more unique and personable opportunities. In addition, these bio pages and LinkedIn accounts are tools that students can use for professional networking through college and the rest of their careers.

What the Noble 301 class seems most enthusiastic about is being able to meet and collaborate with startup founders in the local community – but maybe that’s just because it sometimes involves things like taking a trip to a corner office on the 31st floor of Simmons Tower (as was the case with meeting the kind folks from Apptegy). The class has had guest speakers at the Venture Center that include David Allan from Apptegy; Wayne Bashay, founder of Bodies by Bashay; Big Piph, local musician and producer; and Jordan Carlisle, creator of the Strengthen app. The best of these speakers had impactful stories to tell, filled with fistfulls of life lessons (and apprenticeship offers for the ever-so-eager pupils).

A majority of these high schoolers were already familiar with the concept of startup companies; some of us have even founded our own companies over the years. Already, this has lead to increasingly ironic situations involving innovative startup owners explaining the concepts of “traditional businesses” and “office jobs” to these aspiring young students. But this irony is not to be made fun of.

These students are a part of a generation unlike any other; they have access to an unprecedented number of resources and opportunities for self-development. Nowadays, business isn’t something just for those who read Fortune

Does The 10,000 Hours Mastery Rule Apply To Entrepreneurship?

Does The 10,000 Hours Mastery Rule Apply To Entrepreneurship?

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

In his book “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell focuses on external factors that pave the path to success. Along with these external factors he also suggests that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to “master” a skill or set of skills. He cites a variety of examples in sports, music and business to support his theory. I believe this theory also applies to entrepreneurial success.

10,000 hours. That’s approximately 15 hours per week, every week for thirteen years. Most well-known athletes started playing their sport from five to ten years of age, and with lots of practice and good coaching, reach the “master” level in their late teens and mid 20’s, just as they are beginning their pro career or making an Olympic team. The data tells us that most entrepreneurs are around 40 years of age when they start their first company.

Most people begin their entrepreneurial training in college with the exposure to business courses, some cool technology, or other experiences that get them thinking entrepreneurially. It takes another 15-20 years of education and work experience to develop the vast skill set, relationships, connections, maturity, risk tolerance, and confidence for entrepreneurs to start their own company.

If it really takes 15 years or more to hone the skills needed for entrepreneurial success, then parents and educators should make a more purposeful effort to identify potential entrepreneurial talent early. Once identified, young would-be entrepreneurs should be exposed to opportunities and surrounded with the resources they need to “master” the broad array of skills, and prepare them for the startup life by the time they are in their mid to late 20’s. This also coincides with scientific data regarding brain development and more mature thinking.

Joshua, our teen entrepreneur, is well on his way down this path. Once we realized he was displaying entrepreneurial traits at around age thirteen, we became more intentional about nurturing his passion and gifts with opportunities for business education, programs, contacts, and experiential learning. He was doing this on his own before we finally realized his entrepreneurial traits and he has continued to educate himself and gain experience. Despite having been at this for six years now, I suspect he will be in his mid 20’s before he has attained the skills and experience that will significantly increase his odds of success in the startup life. He is on a faster track than most at his age because he is not in college at this point and fully focused on his business endeavors. Fifteen years may seem like a long time to a teenager, but it is still a decade or two earlier than most first time business owners feel confident enough to go out on their own.

Although Joshua is on his own at 19 years of age, we continue to enjoy watching him grow in knowledge and experience and do all we can to help and support him, along with the network of mentors, advisors and supporters he has developed on his own. When he hits his mid 20’s, look out!

THE TAKEAWAY: While there are exceptions, the 10,000 hour theory seems to apply to young entrepreneurs. There are simply too many examples in comparable areas of mastery to ignore it. Young entrepreneurs – this is much more challenging than you probably thought it was at first. So what! If that’s all it takes for you to give up, you weren’t going to make it anyway. If you have the drive, passion and willingness to do what it takes to build on your gifts and develop the necessary skills, mentors, advisors and supporters, you can live the startup life. For those of you who take up the challenge, “Welcome to the Community.”

Header image courtesy of Flickr, BusinessSarah