Entrepreneurial high schoolers give their best business pitch in competition

580 200 Ed Coghlan

(Photo Credit: VEI)

As Californians well know, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes — and ages.

A recent event in Pasadena, co-sponsored by the California Community Colleges, reminds us that fostering entrepreneurial-minded students gives a boost to California's economic future.

More than 70 high school teams from the Inland Empire, Los Angeles and Orange Counties gathered to pitch their own business ideas — with student-led companies that ranged from selling weightless backpacks to converting kinetic energy into something marketable.

For Lisa Kiplinger-Kennedy, small business deputy sector navigator for the California Community Colleges' Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy division, participating in the 2017 Los Angeles Trade Show made sense.

“Every industry sector has small businesses,” she said. “We were particularly excited to be able to underwrite some of the event costs for 17 high school teams from the Inland Empire.”

She added these skills are important for those who are headed to a middle-skills certification. “A welder may want to start his or her own business in the future and this type of program gives young people the skills they will need for that effort,” said Kiplinger-Kennedy.

For California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor Van Ton-Quinlivan, the idea of students coming into community colleges with an idea of what they want to do will help them succeed.

“Jobs come in all forms, and some are self-created. Our commitment to a strong workforce means helping students through programs like these explore the range of career possibilities,” Ton-Quinlivan said. “Students who come to community colleges with greater intentionality on their career goals will find greater educational success.”

The students are challenged to write a business plan, understanding financing the business and market the business. At the event, these young entrepreneurs were selling their ideas and their products to the “adults” who attended.

“They learn about networking and what it takes to be successful,” said Nick Chapman, national program director at Virtual Enterprises International, which put on the event.

Rodney Walker, an author and young entrepreneur, shared with the students his story of going from foster care to success. “The one thing I always like to preach to kids is that 'You have the power to think. But do you have the will to act?’”

Turns out, many of them did.


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan