YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Entrepreneurs aged 9 to 17 will form the first cohort of Youngstown Business Incubator’s new Launchpad initiative when it kicks off on March 16.
The program will start with virtual classes and then transition to in-person instruction in April, said Stephanie Gilchrist, director of YBI’s Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Programs. All but one of the 25 participants are from Mahoning County, the 25th being from Trumbull County.
The 15 week course will cover topics such as entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial skills, marketing research, legal and financial issues, inventions, business model and pitch.
âIt’s amazing that the need is there in front of us all this time,â Gilchrist remarked.
Such a move could have put Housel-Mendez, who was previously YBI’s director of program management, on a different path, had she been available when she was young, she said.
âI come from a line of entrepreneurs, so I had the mindset from a young age. A program that could have helped me turn my napkin sketch into a real business could have changed my life, âshe said.
While a few attendees are still trying to find their niche, several already have business ideas, Gilchrist said. One is interested in creating jewelry, and Gilchrist wore a sample of his work, a bracelet. Another is interested in cooking and wants to have her own food truck.
Other participants include a young gamer who wants to create a membership-based gaming parlor and an entrepreneur who wants to create sportswear.
Launchpad is essential in showing attendees that they can turn their ideas into a successful business and create ownership, wealth and economic impact if they research, build relationships and get down to business, said Housel-Mendez.
âEntrepreneurship and the associated essential skills go far beyond just starting a business. So it is very important for us to instill these things in our young people whether they are starting a business or not, âshe said.
While Launchpad has yet to host its first class, Gilchrist and the program committee are already formulating plans for future cohorts and programming beyond the 15-week course. Gilchrist said she was waiting for school schedules for specific dates, but another cohort is slated for the fall.
Based on the feedback she has received from schools, churches and other youth organizations, she is considering a more community-based summer program, including a pop-up entrepreneurship program. During this year’s spring break, the program will be holding a competition involving Internet domain names that are donated to YBI.
âThe kids are going to have to build a business around these names and introduce it to us and the community,â she said. She is also working on securing a scholarship that could be used for the winning business or for training the winning entrepreneur.
Housel-Mendez, who plays an advisory role for Launchpad, consults Gilchrist and Tanisha Wheeler, YBI’s curriculum director, on the next phase of the program. This will involve developing upscaling opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
“We want to take them through the first part and get them to get started, but we also want to create a space for them to develop and develop their businesses and create wealth, jobs and community impact with their business,” he said. she declared.
âEntrepreneurship is not for everyone,â she added. It’s not for the faint of heart, and just because you love to cook doesn’t mean you’ll be good at owning a bakery. This program brings in young people with real ideas and provides real resources to help them through the start-up phase.
Pictured: Stephanie Gilchrist, Director, Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Program, Youngstown Business Incubator.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.