Students to hatch business schemes

National grant launches entrepreneurial program

Howard Business

February 11, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

More high school students will be looking at the county Economic Development Authority's Neotech Incubator as part of their curriculum next year, thanks to a new entrepreneurship program.

EntrePrep, which teaches high school seniors fundamental skills needed to start their own businesses, is expected to launch this fall.

The program, open to any student in the county, comes to the incubator with a $54,450 grant from the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Kansas City, Mo.

"It's giving them the option of entrepreneurship as a career," said Carol Morrison, Neotech manager. "It'll be intensive study on being an entrepreneur."

Howard County was one of 15 organizations nationwide chosen by the Kauffman Center to conduct EntrePrep, one of that center's seven programs for children and youth entrepreneurship.

It is also the second such training program for Howard high school students to enter the incubator.

Last year, Neotech launched TechEntre, its training program focused on high-tech businesses. As part of TechEntre, teams of students from four schools develop and launch a business over a two-year period. In that program students spend part of their day in their senior year working on their business in the incubator. Organizers hope to expand the program so that it extends into their college years.

The two programs together give a real advantage to Howard County students, said Paula Blake, cooperative work experience coordinator for Howard County schools.

"This partnership with the incubator is providing opportunities that no other students in other states have," she said. "It affords students a valuable access to work and [to] starting your own business."

As part of its efforts in encouraging students in entrepreneurship, the incubator also takes in high school interns and rotates them through its various resident companies. It helped the high school's Wilde Times Cafe get back on its feet.

Michael Haines, the incubator's senior vice president of small-business development, said it is important for the incubator to continue to invest in students.

"There seems to be the question popping up, as to where the next generation of entrepreneurs is coming from," he said.

"Entrepreneurs don't just happen. You've got to give them some program that nurtures their ideas. You've got to steer them into [entrepreneurship], and out of that comes the next generation of entrepreneurs.

"There's a lot of high school students champing at the bit to become entrepreneurs, but they just don't know how to do it."

The Kauffman Center's EntrePrep program is focused on teaching students how to develop any type of entrepreneurial business -- from lemonade stands to construction companies.

In the program, 24 juniors will spend a week on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, over the summer for an intensive study on being an entrepreneur.

During that week, they will be taught the skills and techniques the other entrepreneurs have identified as key to starting a business.

The students also will spend 150 hours in an internship with a start-up company, shadowing the owner.

During the school year, three booster workshops help the students sharpen their skills. Students who complete the program receive a $1,000 college scholarship.

The Kauffman Center grant pays for 75 percent of the program. Morrison, the incubator's manager, said she expects to raise the rest of the funds through in-kind gifts and donations from the business community.

School officials are developing their end of the program -- selecting teachers and establishing criteria for student selection, Blake said.

"We're looking forward to a nice kickoff," she said.

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