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Entrepreneurship Programs In School: Do Students Need Them?

Updated: Feb 11

by: Patricia Clahar


Teaching has always given me life, no matter what the subject. But there's one subject that always seems to bring extra excitement to the classroom – entrepreneurship. Every time I bring this topic up eyes widen, hands fly into the air and business ideas start coming from every corner of the room. Lemonade! Glow-in-the-dark slime! Life-sized replicas of Thor’s hammer that you can throw and it comes back to you just like in the movie!!!


If you introduce entrepreneurship in the right way, most students get hooked on the idea pretty quickly. For some, it’s the allure of doing something "grown-up", like making money. For others, it’s the mystique of making something out of nothing. Kids live for this stuff! But . . . do they need entrepreneurship in school?


Ask most educators about 21st century skills or innovation in education and you’re likely to get into a conversation about STEAM education, project-based learning or educational technology. But if you’re serious about preparing our students for the economy of the 21st century, entrepreneurship should absolutely be on your radar, as well. Here are a few things for you to consider.


Starting a business is a powerful, multi-disciplinary, project-based activity.

Entrepreneurship is an amazing way to answer that infernal question that students always ask: “Are we ever going to use this in real life???”. Math, science, language arts, research skills, etc. all become incredibly practical tools when your goal is to build a business and make money.

Do you need to set a price for that cup of lemonade? A smart entrepreneur wouldn’t do that before calculating how much it costs to produce that cup of lemonade. If that handmade lotion doesn’t have the texture that you want, you’re going to have to do some more research and experimenting to get the chemistry just right.


Do you need to set a price for that cup of lemonade? A smart entrepreneur wouldn’t do that before calculating how much it costs to produce that cup of lemonade. If that handmade lotion doesn’t have the texture that you want, you’re going to have to do some more research and experimenting to get the chemistry just right.


And once your product/service is ready for market, what should you say on your website and social media to get people interested? And how should you say it? You can easily incorporate almost any academic skill into a project-based entrepreneurship activity.


According to Forbes magazine, the “gig economy” is still on the rise.

Contract work, freelancing, side hustling. They’re becoming more and more common in our economy. As of 2017, more than 1 in 3 people had a gig-based job (Frazer, 2019). As of 2018, almost half of millennials were participating in the gig economy – more than any other generation (Brustein, 2019)! And if current trends continue, more than half of the US workforce will have some kind of gig-based job by 2027 (Brustein, 2019).

With the right skills and mindset, one or more gigs can be used to create a lucrative living. But are we teaching students how to thrive in this type of market? Are we teaching them how to create a job for themselves or are we just teaching them how to get the job done once they have it.


Should this be a family responsibility?

Schools are under a lot of pressure these days to teach, well, practically everything. Yes, it might be overwhelming to think about teaching entrepreneurship in addition to “core academics”. And sure, there might be some families who have the ability to teach their kids about this themselves. So why not leave it up to them?


Think about the families who can’t teach this to their kids. What are they really missing out on? It’s more than just a cute lesson about how to make something out of nothing. At the end of the day, we’re talking about the potential to build generational wealth, which can have a tremendous impact on families and communities. If families are the main vehicles for sharing this kind of information, some families will always benefit, and others will continually miss out. Why not choose to play a role in breaking that cycle?


Young entrepreneurs that will inspire you and your students.

Sebastian and Brandon Martinez (12 and 14 years old, respectively) started their non-profit organization, Are You Kidding Socks, in 2014. They raise funds and awareness for local and national charities one colorful pair of socks at a time. Recently, the brothers have started a podcast with the support of radio personality Enrique Santos and iHeart Radio. In addition to running their non-profit, they continue to attend a local charter school and play on multiple basketball teams throughout the year.


Sebastian and Brandon Martinez and their breast cancer awareness socks.


To learn more about Sebastian and Brandon, check out their website and their recent feature in Entrepreneur.


So, what do you think?

Do more schools need entrepreneurship programs? What about your school? Does it already have an entrepreneurship program? If not, what questions and challenges would you have to address if you wanted to implement a program for your students?




Patricia Clahar is the founder of Hands-On Entrepreneurship for Kids. She provides online support to kids/teens who want to start or grow their businesses via coaching and a comprehensive accelerator program. She also offers in-school entrepreneurship presentations and helps schools to implement entrepreneurship programs that meet their specific needs. Patricia holds a BA from Harvard University ('98), an MBA from Columbia Graduate School of Business ('03) and has been an educator for over 12 years.


Website: https://www.teachentrepreneurshipforkids.com/

Instagram: @handsonentrepreneurship4kids

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/entrepreneurshipforkids/

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