Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 27, 2013

Students to gain skills at entrepreneurship event


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Paul Britten had no clue how to run a business when he left his job as an architect in the 1980s to pursue his banner company, Britten Inc.

“Many people end up in business without ever thinking about it. That’s kind of what I did,” he said. “That caused me a lot of heartache in the first five years.”

Exposure to the basic tenets of business may have saved him from mistakes, he said.

Today, 72 area high school students have the chance to gain entrepreneurship skills early on, rather than learning from the school of hard knocks. Junior Achievement of Northwest Michigan is hosting its first Youth Summit for Future Entrepreneurs at the Hagerty Center.

Britten will challenge students to create a product, and local business leaders and educators will mentor teams of eight. At the end of the day they’ll present a business plan, campaign and a 30-second ad to a panel of judges. The winning team members will receive $100 each.

Lianne Somerville, Junior Achievement of Northwest Michigan district manager, expects students will walk away with an understanding that entrepreneurship requires creativity.

Participants may have had exposure to Junior Achievement curriculum, which is taught by volunteers in K-12 classes and focuses on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and workforce readiness. Somerville said students may already have plans to start a business, and others just want to get their feet wet.

“Some may decide this isn’t for me. It would be highly unlikely to get 72 entrepreneurs,” she said. “I want them to know that even if you don’t want to be entrepreneurs, that you need to use entrepreneurial thinking no matter what you do.”

Robin Ahart, marketing director of TBA Credit Union and a team mentor, thinks the summit will challenge students’ communication skills because they won’t be teamed up with friends.

“They’re going to have to communicate and collaborate with people they don’t necessarily know. They might not initially get along, and that’s the real world,” she said.

Jason Skeels, a teacher in Kalkaska High School’s social studies department, selected four students to attend who are high achievers in his economics class. The four haven’t expressed strong interest in starting a business, but they want to learn skills that apply beyond the classroom.

“They want real world situations. That’s what they’re looking for,” he said.