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Junior entrepreneurs learning how to start up

High school students participate in a new three-week intensive Junior Entrepreneurs of Minnesota program

By Peggy Rader

Students in the Junior Entrepreneurs of Minnesota program

July 21, 2009

Twenty high school students with a range of interesting interpretations of "business attire" spread out throughout the classroom in the Carlson School of Management on the west bank of the Twin Cities campus.

This is their final week in the new three-week intensive program Junior Entrepreneurs of Minnesota, offered by the University's Office for Business and Community Economic Development (OBCED) for the first time this summer.

The classes have been taught by Alan Fine, a senior lecturer in the Carlson School. The students, who gave up many summer days to be here, have been learning condensed versions of every aspect of starting one's own business: planning, finance, operations, marketing, and leadership.

"After listening to the kids share their own personal testimony of how incredibly transformative the program experience was for them personally and how it's influencing their educational and career objectives," says Craig Taylor, director of OBCED. "I am convinced that this was one of the best investments we have ever made."

Over the three weeks, the students have heard presentations from some of the Twin Cities' best-known and successful business people and entrepreneurs, including "Famous Dave" Anderson; Richard Copeland, president of Thor Construction; and Dale Bachman, president of Bachman's Floral, Gift & Garden centers.

On this day, student teams are in the front of the room making presentations to the marketing group from the Minnesota Twins. Each student team had to come up with a business solution for the Twins to successfully create and attract more fans in the teen and young adult age range.

Impressive PowerPoint presentations, complete with animation in some cases, offer innovative possibilities—a special lounge area at the stadium just for teens, special promotions aimed at free things kids would really like such as clothing—all of which seem to intrigue the Twins marketing group. When the kids suggest heavy marketing on radio stations KMOJ and B96, the professional marketers ask, "What about in movie theaters?"

"Kids don't have money to go to movies," the teens fire back. "We're looking for free things, really cheap things to do."
The students also suggest ads on the sides of city buses. "We all use buses to get around, so that's where we would see special deals for Twins games," one presenter explains.

The Twins marketers are somewhat chagrined to discover that none of the kids are aware of the team's Wednesday $4 tickets for teens. The presentations veer off briefly while the pros delve into a little impromptu marketing research to find out better ways to promote the special deal.

Bill Laramy, who manages the program for OBCED, says it is coordinated with STEP-UP, a successful city summer job program for 14–21 year-old students in Minneapolis. All of the students in the junior entrepreneur program are now spending the rest of the summer working STEP-UP jobs at the University. OBCED hopes to find funds to continue the program with these students in the fall, as well as bring back a new cohort next summer.