ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM STORIES

Young Entrepreneur Institute

The Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum has partnered with the Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School since 2012 to further the education of entrepreneurship to students across Northeast Ohio. Their variety of programs for students K-12, educators, and the entrepreneurship ecosystem has impacted the lives of thousands in the community.

We spoke with Jessica Dragar, the Program Manager for K-8 Relationships at YEI, about her experience with the organization and the importance of their work.

Would you tell us a little bit about the Young Entrepreneur Institute and your involvement with the organization?

The Young Entrepreneur Institute believes that every student should understand and experience entrepreneurship. We provide resources and guidance for those interested in entrepreneurial education.

I am the Program Manager for K-8 Relationships and the primary contact for both the Young Entrepreneur Market and Lemonade Day NEO.

What impact have you seen with students and in the community through programs such as the Young Entrepreneur Market and Lemonade Day?

Students who engage in entrepreneurial activities at a young age learn critical life lessons that will prepare them for future success.  Programs like Young Entrepreneur Market and Lemonade Day provide them with hands-on opportunities to be problem solvers, strategic thinkers, and the confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities.

What do you enjoy the most about working with students and educators?

Each day at Young Entrepreneur Institute is different and fun!  It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with educators to bring high quality programming into their classrooms and engage with students in such a unique way.  Helping students reach their full potential and assisting them in the process is very rewarding.  The moment they realize that they can be their own “boss” and make a bit of money, their whole demeanor changes and they start setting goals and put plans into action.

How has Covid-19 impacted YEI programs and how do you see this affecting the future?

Our team had to shift how we provide programming and resources, which typically would be done in person and face-to-face.   We quickly identified ways for us to help support educators during this challenging time and their transition to remote learning environments. Monthly Power Hours, which are FREE (and virtual) professional development workshops for educators, with the focus on tools for the classroom and best practices as they relate to entrepreneurship and life-skill building.  These sessions have become very popular and has created a wonderful sense of community among the participants.  We have also had a number of educators attend from outside of NEO who otherwise would not be able participate in our in-person, after-school sessions.

In regard to Young Entrepreneur Market and Lemonade Day, we had to get a bit creative to safely have students sell out in the community.  We worked with our community partners to ensure that selling experiences were still enriching and rewarding, while following all guidelines and regulations.  This past market season was very well supported by customers and our young entrepreneurs received wonderful feedback and many had great financial success.

Why do you think instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in students is so important?

The entrepreneurial mindset is important because it will help students in all areas of their life – personal, academics and future career success, even if they don’t become an entrepreneur themselves.  The ability to think critically, problem solve, be collaborative, an effective communicator and resilience are all important 21st Century skills.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs just starting out?

I encourage students to just go for it and take a chance!  You can’t be afraid of failure, as a lesson is learned each time a challenge is presented. You have to be flexible, as you never know where an idea will take you, especially as you dig a bit deeper into the problem you are trying to solve.  I would also encourage them to seek out the advice of other young entrepreneurs to hear about their journeys and experiences.

Where can we go to learn more about YEI or find the dates for the Young Entrepreneur Market?

Educators, students, and parents can visit www.youngentrepreneurinstitute.org for more information or to reserve a Young Entrepreneur Market selling opportunity.

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