Germantown High School students, Youth Entrepreneur Program

Germantown High School students start
businesses through The Business Center’s
Youth Entrepreneurial Program
(May 2006)

If you’re in the Germantown area on a hot day this summer, you might want to check out the “appealing and affordable” Urban Flava water ice stand. If you want to show pride in your neighborhood, look for a Rep.Zip bracelet in a local sneaker store or salon. You’ll be able to look for these items on clean streets thanks to Eye Candy.

These are all businesses that 10 Germantown High School students developed and will execute as part of the Urban Youth Entrepreneurial Program run in Philadelphia schools by The Business Center at New Covenant Campus and supported in part by almost $100,000 secured from U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. Recently, they presented their plans at the high school’s Beacon Center. All were dressed professionally and found themselves in the spotlight, including being interviewed for the TV show, Urban Expressions. It was hard to know who was more impressed.

“I’m impressed with you young people,” said Solomon Wheeler, Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at The Business Center. “If you have characteristics of fortitude and determination, an individual or community can cultivate economic empowerment. We all possess positive attributes in our mind and heart that can contribute toward entrepreneurial success. The real ingredients come from within.”

Jason Weems is the Director of Germantown Beacon of Education Works, which provides academic, social and recreational programs for GHS students. He identified the students for this program – although some approached him first.

“Their interest indicated maturity and the desire to be independent,” said Weems. “At Beacon, we have a well-rounded program to help young people become well-rounded adults. I’m in full support of the program because it is teaching and empowering young people, through hands-on experience, to be self sufficient and that they can have a career instead of a job. You can hear and learn from books and in the classroom, but you’re applying true learning here.”

Keiwanna McKinney was the instructor in the 12-session program.

“We work from the National Foundation to Teach Entrepreneurship workbooks that really allow the students to define the basics of business,” she explained. “Upon doing that there are different activities that ask them a series of questions about hobbies and interests. They ask them to turn those hobbies and interests into business opportunities.”

What they came up with was RUE, an acronym for Representing Urban Economics. R is for Rep.Zip, bracelets representing different zip codes; U is for Urban Flava, a water ice stand, which will also sell pretzels, ranging in price from $1-$3.50. “We can compete with others because we’re going to be appealing and affordable,” said ninth-grader Ashley Reed, the youngest member of the team.

E is for Eye Candy, a beautification service that will service the businesses in a two-mile radius of Germantown and Chelten, cleaning windows, sweeping storefronts and shoveling snow.

From the comments of the students, they saw this as more than a short term project but something that gave them confidence and a guideline for their future.

“I feel this put me on a map for entrepreneurship and running my own business,” said 12th grader William Berry. “The Business Center provided a good opportunity for Germantown High School students that want to own their own business. This leaves a lot of students with a positive image of Germantown students. The water ice stand will be a positive thing for the community, providing water ice for kids and jobs for students.”

“Most of us want to be our own entrepreneurs,” said Trina Prince. “I want to open my own dance school. We have our own reasons for coming. Through this program, we had an opportunity to learn and it provided leadership for all of us. This is helping us on the right path in life. For most of us who want to have our own businesses, it’s showing us how to run a business and things we need to know about the business world.”>

Senior Keith Chappel learned that starting a business could be fun. “Owning and starting a business is not as hard as it seems,” he said. “It’s hard work, but if you’re dedicated and really work hard – I had a great team — it can be fun, something to take pride in. There are a lot of technical terms. What it taught us was everything is not profit. People get confused and think if they make money they made a profit. You have to think how much money you put in to actually get the product that you’re selling. You subtract that from what you actually make and then you get the profit. I didn’t know that before. It seems really hard, dividends and technical terms, but it’s not as hard as it seems.”

As the youngest participant, Reed will carry the mantle forward. “It was a fun program,” she said. “I learned the basics of entrepreneurship and starting a business. You can start young. I want to be a music composer and I’m learning how to maintain a business. I feel excited. I gained confidence as a young entrepreneur. I couldn’t have done it with out The Business Center.“

For additional inspiration, Reuben A. Harley was a special guest speaker. He told how as a teenager he sold dessert cakes from playground to playground earning enough money to buy expensive jerseys. Soon his customers were admiring the jerseys. He approached Mitchell & Ness owner Peter Capolino with the idea that they “could blow away the competition selling old jerseys.”

“They gave me a shot, but then it was in my court,” explained Harley, who is now an equity owner and Vice President of Mitchell & Ness. “I didn’t know any celebrities. I built relationships. Mitchell & Ness grew from a small store to a phenomenon. It takes a certain swagger to keep on going. Dare to be different. Know your clientele. I was 17 years old walking into Mitchell & Ness. I appreciate the pay, but I worked hard for it. There are no textbooks that can explain drive and heart. What you got in here they can’t take away.”

For these students at Germantown High School, they are learning that lesson well.

If your organization is interested in having an urban youth entrepreneurial program, call Solomon Wheeler at 215-247-2473 ext 4.