by Alex Kurrelmeier, Director of The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur at Culver
Lemonade stands and car washes aren’t enough for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Starting as young as middle school, experiential learning rooted in real world business scenarios is helping to shape the entrepreneurs of the future.
It’s advantageous to develop these skills at a young age – our economy depends on it. Small businesses “employ more than 50 percent of the private workforce, generate more than half of the nation’s gross domestic product and are the principal source of new jobs in the U.S. economy,” according the U.S. Department of Labor.
But in order to be successful in tomorrow’s marketplace, the upcoming generation needs to develop appropriate and applicable skills. Information is a commodity; what will help students most is the ability to add value by taking action to apply the available information. Learning-by-doing is the most effective way to tap into the natural creativity and fearlessness of youth and develop talent.
For example, high school honor students at The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur serve on the Ron Rubin Café Management Team, which comprises accounting, finance, operations, marketing and other management functions. In practice, students run the café without adult interference. They are faced with real business challenges; like the consequence of running out of milk for a coffee shop. How will the team fix the immediate problem and prevent it from happening again?
What students learn in a collaborative culture is a combination of business basics: the roles and functions that make a business operate, how to apply innovation and demonstrate multifaceted, transferrable skills that will serve them anywhere in life. These skills in particular help develop tomorrow’s entrepreneur:
There will inevitably reach a point where a project gets stuck. If a student is forced to stop and assess the current situation, identify what went wrong and think through possible outcomes, he or she will be able to move forward with a more informed idea, process or solution. Time will tell if it is the right choice, but flexible and critical thinking ability ensures that he will always be able to find options.
Teamwork can soar or sink depending on how members work through their differences: personalities, opinions and egos come into play just as they do in every workplace. Forcing students to reconcile these differences, compromise, negotiate and set boundaries are invaluable ways to develop interpersonal skills and prepare them for this side of the work world, regardless of that world is for profit, not-for-profit, government, family or otherwise.
Perhaps nothing teaches a student better than failure. It can be disappointing, even crippling. But when students are taught that failure is not a reflection of their on tem personally, and that failure, at some point, is inevitable and should be viewed as an opportunity, students begin to see it as part of the process to arrive at the right solution, product, service, idea, etc. Each time something goes wrong, they are given the opportunity to stop, assess and think through alternatives. Perhaps this failure will prevent a costly situation in the future. In that respect, failure can be a gift.
If a student is able to solve problems, resolve conflicts and fail gracefully and objectively, he will likely have a positive mindset to recover with a new plan and proceed with it. These are essential concepts to master when running any organization, but for students, it is also life skill development.
Alex Kurrelmeier is a Culver graduate and currently serves as the Director of The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur at Culver. He previously worked as the President and Chief Operating Officer for International Airport Centers L.L.C. (IAC) based in Highland Park, Illinois.