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4 Ways to Empower Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs


By Erin Shipley

Some of the most impactful and disruptive companies of the 21st century sprung from the minds of young, first-time entrepreneurs. Creativity, hard work and the Internet have helped turn young people with radical ideas — from Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook to Brian Chesky with Airbnb — into some of the most influential figures in the world.

While this demonstrates to young people that the act of creation isn’t separate from them, it has also changed the way more established companies approach business. They now see how fostering a corporate culture of independent and dynamic employees is a way of harnessing the entrepreneurial drive and creativity necessary to promote business growth.

These are great shifts in mindset on the individual side as well as the corporate, but much more remains to be done. This mindset needs to be cultivated and promoted in schools. Fostering from a young age the skills that help the most successful entrepreneurs triumph creates a virtuous cycle of gritty, creative and motivated young people who can help today’s companies grow and create the companies of tomorrow.

Promoting success

These ideas aren’t theoretical. I recently saw this firsthand as a judge at the Youth BizCamp Entrepreneurship Challenge in Los Angeles, a summer program organized by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The NFTE is an international organization that recognizes and promotes the value of an entrepreneurial education in empowering young people.

As part of the competition I judged, young students created business plans and presentations that addressed ideas as complex as order fulfillment, market sizing, and app development. Students were so inspired when developing ideas that they taught themselves techniques like coding, simply to take a purely theoretical project and make it a reality.

This speaks directly to the need for youth entrepreneurship. You want employees motivated by independence, creative thinking, and ownership of their work, so you need candidates who have been taught the importance of these attributes. An economy driven by the creation of new, dynamic companies needs early infrastructure to promote this possibility. One way to instill this is through entrepreneurship programs for young people.

Empowering the future

Working in venture capital, I’ve seen the huge impact that can be made by an individual — be it a startup founder, a lead engineer, or a fantastic content marketer — and how necessary it is to support a corporate culture of driven, independent, and dynamic employees. As companies strive to create working environments and corporate cultures that cultivate this kind of employee, externally promoting these same values is a way to contribute directly to improving their future employee bases. This is why companies should actively participate in a bottom-up approach to entrepreneurship education.

To assist and involve your company with one of these programs, I suggest the following:

1. Make an organizational commitment

Though everyone’s busy juggling a variety of personal and professional responsibilities, just a little bit of time from a company can go a long way toward promoting entrepreneurship among young people. Consider making an organizational commitment to dedicate one or two days a year to youth outreach efforts. Even sponsoring a workshop or seminar can inspire young entrepreneurs to pursue their goals.

But you needn’t be a business to get involved with outreach. Many professionals volunteer their time outside the workplace, such as a 30-minute phone call to talk through a business plan with aspiring entrepreneurs. That advice can be hugely valuable to young entrepreneurs’ futures.

2. Partner with programs that align with your mission

As with any other outreach effort, it often makes the most sense to find programs that fit with your company’s mission and culture. This allows you to draw upon your employees’ strengths to promote youth entrepreneurship.

Technology companies could host an event with an organization that holds hackathons for young entrepreneurs. Manufacturers could volunteer to sit on a panel to talk about manufacturing advancements or hold tours of their plants for young entrepreneur programs. Check out the NFTE, #YesWeCode or the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for opportunities near you.

3. Build a young entrepreneurship program

If you can’t find a program that directly appeals to your company or fits your needs, build one yourself. Think creatively about how you can contribute to engaging and motivating young people.

That could mean establishing a mini-internship program in which students intern for a day in one of your company’s departments to see how coding can build real products. Or you could institute a mentorship program in which employees work with students in a local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics class. The possibilities are endless.

4. Offer summer job opportunities

It can be incredibly valuable to source the fresh perspective of an ambitious student for a stint of summer work. These opportunities can be massively influential for young people in their future career prospects.

But jobs aren’t beneficial just for youth entrepreneurship. A survey by Ernst & Young found that 86 percent of entrepreneurs found improvements in their businesses from hiring young people. Of those entrepreneurs, 47 percent saw these improvements through innovative ideas that came from young hires, while 40 percent experienced improvements as a result of younger hires introducing smarter ways of working.

Young people today will be the business creators and rock-star employees of tomorrow, so it’s important to encourage youth entrepreneurship. By promoting skill-based education and programs that directly promote entrepreneurship, businesses can help empower the next generation of dynamic business leaders.

Image credit: Pixabay

Erin Shipley is a senior associate at Karlin Ventures, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage enterprise software and marketplaces. Follow the company on Twitter.

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