Young people who want to start a business may find it daunting, but one man's hope for high-school entrepreneurs is that they'll stop at nothing to succeed.
"There's such a disconnect between the educational side of learning how a business operates and the experience involved in actually doing it," said Brian Acord, consultant and founder of the Young Entrepreneurs of America. "All it takes to get going is knowing where to get started."
More than 700 high school students from across the state learned the ins and outs of building a new enterprise Thursday at the Young Entrepreneurs Summit, held at Salt Lake Community College. Acord told the eager students that with proper preparation, risks in business are worth taking, and whether it all begins in the basement of their parents' home or inside a school locker, it pays to be creative.
The summit, in its fifth year, allows students to pitch ideas and questions to real entrepreneurs and get immediate feedback on starting their own business, as well as network with mentors and coaches on getting started.
"Many student-run companies get started out of this program," Acord said. "It gives them a taste of what it's really like in the business world."
Students who apply for various competitions sponsored by his group are encouraged to prove that with only $100 and an idea, they can make a sale within the first week of incorporation. Those small start-ups then sometimes make it to become full-fledged businesses.
Three students last year won funding for their ventures, including an artistic steel-welding business and a T-shirt company. Another student, Davis High School senior Clayton Jenkins, won a scholarship, and last year he put the money toward starting Premium Steam, a steam-cleaning and detailing business.
"Work is work, but to a point, I just hire out the jobs, and I get to sit at home and do homework while my employees are out making money for my company," Jenkins said.
He has two solid employees, and he also calls on multiple people in his neighborhood to help out with cleaning boats and RVs and other vehicle interiors.
"I've learned the basics of running a business, how to create proposals and deal with people professionally," he said. He works another job to help pay for the steam cleaner and the gas it takes to drive to all his appointments and to school.
The biggest benefit, Jenkins said, is the flexibility of being his own boss. His friends with jobs are all told when they have to go to work, and they make noticeably less money per hour.
"I can pretty much decide to go out and make money whenever I want," he said.
Because of his success and what he's learned while running Premium Steam, Jenkins plans to get a master's degree in entrepreneurship and continue working for himself as long as he can.
He noticed plenty of unkempt boats in his neighborhood and capitalized on the opportunity to clean them. Other entrepreneurs have done the same thing with other ideas and tips learned through programs such as the one at the college Thursday.
"You really have to believe in what you're doing and just do what it takes to get it done," said Erin Olsen, who runs multiple companies out of her home. She said the risks are worth it if you gain experience along the way. After working at nearly 30 jobs, Olsen knows what it means to take a chance on something.
In addition to the summit, Young Entrepreneurs of America participates in various career fairs and classroom discussions throughout the year, helping young business students brainstorm."It's about exposure and letting them see if entrepreneurship is right for them," Acord said. The best advice he gives students looking to open a business is to not be afraid of failure. "Keep it simple and keep it going."
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