Sunday, February 21, 2010

Social Entrepreneurship Apprencticeship through Citizen Schools Fall 2009

Two months have passed since I wrapped up my fall apprenticeship at Kealing Elementary with Citizen Schools. This past fall, I taught an after school class of 6th and 7th graders Social Entrepreneurship.

I went into the apprenticeship with the plan to have the students identify social challenges they face and that I would guide them in developing entrepreneurial solutions to address those challenges to do good and make money.

What kid wouldn't like that idea right? Wait, hold up Mr. JC what are we talking about here?

So the first class we learned about what an entrepreneur was and what a social entrepreneur was. The kids got it, a social entrepreneur is someone that makes money off of their ideas and efforts for doing good. Once the kids got that, we got down to business. What challenges do you all face that you would like to see something done about?

All types of things were mentioned by the students when asked this question. Their responses ranged from not having any space to store belongings to not having school supplies were mentioned amongst other challenges like dealing with bullies and not having healthier food alternatives.

The list of things the students responded were;

healthy snack alternatives
healthy food alternatives, in particular baked goods
lack of school supplies
no recess or physical activity classes
no personal belonging storage, i.e. no lockers

On average in the class there were between 10 and 14 children throughout the ten weeks. So after we shouted out all the things that bothered them that they would like to be addressed we took a long look at the list to see if we could brainstorm any combination to include several challenges/needs into one solution.

After some back and forth exercises the class came to the conclusion to form three groups. Those groups were:

Team Healthy Snacks
They would address the need for healthier snacks in school. Their snacks would be delicious, healthy and affordable for every student at Kealing Elementary.

Team Healthy Baked Goods
Addressing the need for healthy food alternatives by have organic baked breads and deserts.

Team The Hot Spot
Originally thought of as a combination of various responses from the students. The Hot Spot would be a place where students could go to in the morning before class, during lunch and after school to socialize away from bullies, get tutoring help, purchase discounted school supplies, and most of all be themselves.

It was now week three of ten of this apprenticeship and the students now had an idea of what they were going to work on. Well with this happening through Citizen Schools, we had to work up towards a WOW! event at the end of the apprenticeship. In this case our WOW! event would be that the students would think through and develop a business plan for their social entrepreneurial solution and present it to a board of investors, shark tank style. In the next few weeks the students would explore different areas of business. They would then build their business plan week by week leading up to being able to present it to a board of investors.

I am not going to lie and say it was easy to do this. There were many times, I felt like just quitting because I could not get the students to work together. But every time I felt like that, I had to remind myself why I was there. I was there to spark that interest in a kid for a lifelong of learning and curiosity for understanding that today's challenges can be solved with ideas and action. That it is possible to start a business to make money and do good at the same time.

Every week I broke down a different business component down to its most basic understanding to something they could relate to for their understanding and guided them in applying it in their business. With each class only lasting for an hour and half we had to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. This is how the schedule worked out vaguely;

Week 1 - Understand social entrepreneurship
Week 2 - Identify challenges in schools and break into solution group
Week 3 - Formulate vision of business concept to address challenge identified
Week 4 - What makes up a business? Learn basic parts of a business
Week 5 - Product or Service? What is it that we are selling? Understanding the difference between the two
Week 6 - Who's your customer and how are they going to hear about you?
Week 7 - How is this going to cost and how much are we going to sell it for?
Week 8 - How is the plan going to roll out and piecing it all together in a business plan.
Week 9 - Practice WOW! presentation to shark tank style investor panel.
Week 10 - Present business plans to shark tank investor panel for funding on their idea.

Huge task ahead for the kids from the get go but I knew they could do it. Kids are plenty smart these days. Looking back on the experience, the greatest thing was seeing that transformation of kids who were fighting each other that first class to those same kids providing constructive criticism to classmates in Week 9 WOW! practice. What a little instruction and persistence can do in a child's life.

Come the day of the WOW!, the class had three business concepts;

Healthy snacks group launching with organic apple slices with organic peanut butter optional organic raisins as their product. Future product would be some type of mixed nuts package.

Healthy baked goods group launching with an organic based cheesecake with future ideas of adding cookies, breads and other desserts entirely organic.

The Hot Spot. A place for 6th to 8th graders could go to before school, during lunches, and after school to socialize away from bullies, buy school supplies, get tutoring help, do their homework and most of all a place to be themselves.

The students each went up as a group in front of a few friends of mine, of which, were successful entrepreneur and business professionals. In attendance there were about 20 friends and family members of the students watching them present to the Shark Tank Style Investor Panel, with 5 Investors.

All the groups did a great job presenting their business on what it was and how it would work. They answered questions from the investors and did quite well in speaking in front of such a large group.

After the three groups presented, we escorted them out of the library where the WOW! was taking place so that the investors could discuss their decisions. We brought the students back in and we said the investor had decided to invest in all of their businesses if and only if they all joined forces. To add to The Hot Spot, healthy snacks and baked good would have to be partnered and sold within the same space. There was $80 available to start the business but because of time constraints and school rules the business could not actually take flight. The goal was achieved in that they learned to think of solutions and a way to make money in doing so.

Hopefully this experience sparked an interest in at least one student in solving social challenges through entrepreneurial solutions.

I start my second go around at teaching entrepreneurship to middle schoolers again. This time it is down at Bedichek in South Austin through the same program, Citizen Schools. This time I am doing it through the Lemonade Day program and working with two successful entrepreneurs. I plan to keep better notes this time around.


  1. JC,

    What an awesome thing you are doing teaching entrepreneurship to kids! I just started working with Lemonade Day through Holthouse Foundation for Kids and found your post through a Google Alert.

    It is great to read about the impact you made on your students in just a few weeks. Have you met many others teaching the same subject?