MINI / Mindful Parenting / Learning

SWFL youth entrepreneurship programs prepare children to run the world

The region’s hands-on programs, including Biz Kidz Expo and Seacrest Country Day School’s Market Day, teach the next gen to pitch, develop and promote budding business ideas.

BY February 21, 2023
Local Youth Entrepreneurship programs
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Move over lemonade stands: The new crop of young entrepreneurs are savvy, creative and career-oriented. And with lots of local programs, workshops and fairs, Southwest Florida equips the next generation with the tools they need to succeed. Collier County is mostly small business, says career and technical education manager for Collier County Public Schools, Courtney Stahlman. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the figure at 89 percent. And locals are eager to foster a go-getter spirit in kids.

This school year, Collier schools began an entrepreneurship program for all fifth graders: students work in teams or groups to develop a project, pitch the idea and launch their business. Children learn about marketing, pricing, teamwork, innovation and public speaking. They then sell their creations during an expo at the end of the year. “At that age, they are so creative and have so many ideas,” Courtney says.

At Seacrest Country Day School, first graders participate in Market Day. “When I was going through school, it was all about, ‘What are you going to study?’ ‘What job will you have for the rest of your life?’” Seacrest’s Meghan Easterly says. “Now parents are recognizing you can [follow a] passion and create an income.” For Market Day, kids have a month to develop a product and learn how to promote it with brochures and videos. They sell their soaps, charms, art and other enterprising wares to teachers and peers, who shop with Market Day Dollars, earned through acts of kindness. Seacrest high schoolers can enroll in an entrepreneurship club, where the teacher brings guest speakers from the region. “Having an idea isn’t enough,” Meghan says. “You have to put it into motion and introduce it and see: Is it sustainable? Is it a hobby? Or is it a business?”

The Greater Naples Chamber and Collier County Schools also host an entrepreneur fair for kindergarteners to 12th graders. Participants are recognized for the originality of their idea, business potential and display quality—no parent help allowed.

Meanwhile, serial entrepreneur Jude Paul started Kidpreneur Life in Fort Myers to teach children leadership, financial literacy and other transferable business skills. Online programs can be purchased for individual children or entire classrooms (the lessons meet state standards). Little tycoons can also sign up for the Young Moguls membership and get business cards, a personalized logo and other tools for kickstarting their million-dollar idea.

To showcase the bevy of local, young, self-starter talent, Biz Kidz Expo founder JD Ribali hosts workshops and expositions annually in Collier and Lee Counties. “There are always kids that have these big ideas and are eager to try them out, and we want to give them that platform,” JD says. Through the workshops, children learn to set up displays, develop pitches, sell their products and, perhaps most importantly, they learn how to fail. “We teach them to celebrate their failures. You have to try it, refine it and find out what will work,” JD adds.

At a recent Biz Kidz event at Miromar Outlets, Smiley Castaneda proudly watched his daughter, Cadence, sell handmade earrings. “She is not shy like she used to be. She understands money, understands profits and loss, and now she’s helping other young entrepreneurs,” Smiley says. The 9-year-old started her venture to make money to buy fidget popper toys after her father refused to get her more. “Now I want to be a businesswoman,” Cadence says.

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