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Planting the seed: when successful businesses teach others how to compete in the marketplace, everybody wins.

You don't need a business degree to know that our economy has seen better days. It's easy to get caught up in the news stories of failing businesses and falling stock prices and 1 to assume that wealth in America these days is limited. Who would think of trying to start a business now?

Fortunately, there are people who realize that once wealth creation is a mindset, it can and will become a reality. As Napoleon Hill said, "Do not wait; the time will never be 'just right.' Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along."

Teaching the Tools

Giving young people the tools to be successful and to create prosperity for themselves and their communities is the mission of The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Founded in 1987, NFTE was the vision of Steve Mariotti, a former entrepreneur turned New York City public school teacher. Mariotti believed that low-income youth had the innate "street smarts" that could easily be developed into "business smarts." So he founded NFTE with the vision of helping "every young person find a pathway to prosperity."

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"I think an entrepreneurial mindset is one of the most important things we can pass on to our children," says Julie Kantor, vice president of public policy at NFTE. "An entrepreneurial mindset can benefit them in every aspect of their lives." To foster independent thinking and self-determination, the NFTE program teaches young people to take their talents and hobbies and use them to generate revenue, increasing their self-esteem along with their bank accounts.

NFTE encourages business leaders to go into the classroom and share their experiences, mentoring young entrepreneurs, helping with business plans and teaching financial basics. "We have business leaders and corporations adopting classes, sponsoring more kids in the program, and meeting with policy makers to make this kind of education mandatory,'' Kantor says.

"There's a saying here on Capitol Hill," Kantor says. "Do you want to sign the front of the paycheck or the back of the paycheck?" In Washington, D.C., where NFTE is based, 30 percent of children are living in poverty, Kantor says. "Especially in today's economy, we want kids to feel they have the ability to create wealth for themselves and their families," she says. "We want them to know they have options for wealth creation."

A Corporation in the Community

In 1999, The Prudential Foundation, an independent nonprofit grant-making organization funded by Prudential Financial, started an entrepreneurship program for young people. Today, the Prudential Young Entrepreneurs Program (PYEP) operates in the company's headquarters of Newark, N.J., and in a second location of Philadelphia, Pa. Partnering with local educational institutions and businesses. PYEP has successfully mentored over 950 young people in entrepreneurship skills.

"As a corporate citizen, it was clear to us that growth in the economic sector happens at the small-business level," says Gabriella Morris, president of The Prudential Foundation.

The primary goal of PYEP is to teach people in underserved urban neighborhoods to create wealth for themselves and their families through self-employment and business ownership. "Sometimes in these communities, the accumulation of assets is a mystery," Morris says. "It's our responsibility to demystify wealth accumulation. [The participants] don't know that people who have wealth largely didn't come from wealth."

Business-creation lessons include classes on creating a business plan, developing a business model, and technical assistance with financial planning. Participants also have access to a revolving fund of up to $15,000 to help them with startup costs. In Newark, the Greater Newark Business Development Consortium (GNBDC) helps with funding and microloans.

Mark Quinn, executive director of the GNBDC, believes that wealth achievement is about self-determination. "A lot of people 18-30 are pretty entrepreneurial when they come to us," he says. "The old idea was go to college, get a good job, retire after 30 years and you'll be OK. They [young people] don't see that today. Even if they are employed in a job they like, they see themselves as bee agents, always looking lor the next bigger, better thing."

Quinn says that the skills taught through PYEP complement this individualistic attitude. Access to knowledge and expertise and a peer support mechanism are some of the most important aspects of the program, Quinn says. "A lot of young entrepreneurs, as they get further along in the process, come across family and friends that don't buy into their vision," he says. "Other entrepreneurs have the same fire and are facing the same criticism, so they can be a great support mechanism for one another."

PYEP is arming participants with the expertise they need and want to prosper in a market economy. "Many young people see what's happening around them and want the tools and skills to control their own destiny," Morris says. "It is part of every citizen's birthright to understand these lessons."

Small Business Making a Big Difference

The Honorable James J. "Jimmy" Bailey was born and raised in Charleston, S.C. His mother was a cashier at a grocery store. "That's the best job she ever had," Bailey says. His father worked as a commercial truck driver, picking up odd jobs to help feed the family of seven. "1 had four brothers and we grew up with very little. We developed street sense, as most poor kids do, to survive," Bailey says. He worked his way through high school and college then returned to his old neighborhood to start a commercial real estate business.

Bailey later served six years in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the General Assembly. "I saw firsthand the richest and the poorest in my district," he says. "Then one day I happened to read Steve Mariotti's 1998 Hillsdale College speech," The speech was about how to solve the problem of poverty in America, and in it, Mariotti, the founder of NFTE, said that low-income kids have many of the qualities necessary for entrepreneurial success because of their street smarts developed under challenging circumstances.

"When I read this, I thought to myself: this was written for me and about me," Bailey says. "I called and asked if I could go through the [NFTE] training up in New York and bring it back to Charleston." In 2003, Bailey was inspired by that training to start Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina, or YEScarolina, a nonprofit organization offering South Carolina educators the opportunity to implement NFTE curriculum in schools.

According to Bailey, there comes a time in every young person's life when they want something they're willing to work for. 'As you teach them how to make money for something they want, you teach them other things as well," he says. "And by the end of the semester, they can learn self-esteem, master public speaking, and learn leadership skills, composition and math. Then they can go on to start, their own businesses."

In April 2008, NFTE named YEScarolina the Program Partner of the Year for 2007. Bailey's enthusiasm for YEScarolina is just, as strong as it was the day he started the program. 'There's not a more critical time for people to understand our children's future can't be based on what, company they work for," he says. "We shouldn't be training our kids to work for someone else. We should be training them to be their own business owners, to expect financial freedom, to go after all the things this country was based on."

SHARPENING HER IMAGE

An Entrepreneurship Program Success Story

Tamara Mangum-Thomas, president of Sharpened image Inc., graduated from the Prudential Young Entrepreneurs Program (PYEP) in 2006. She started the program as a startup business owner and a dreamer. "Prior to learning about the PYEP program, I was working full time, going to school full time and in the process of launching Sharpened Image Inc. into what it has become today," Mangum-Thomas says. The tools and skills she learned in PYEP helped her create a viable business plan and provided her with the technical assistance she needed to give her business a solid foundation and keep it running smoothly.

"PYEP is a learning adventure--one that is interactive and meaningful in every facet of business development," she says. "One of the most important things I've learned about myself and my ability to create wealth is that I am a true leader--a connoisseur of my craft--not by my own might but because of the knowledge, wisdom, education, friendships and tools I've acquired along the way."

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Sharpened Image Inc. is a human-resource-management firm that offers HR solutions, traditional staffing services and corporate training. Mangum-Thomas has just seen her first year with a significant profit. She attributes much of her success to the entrepreneurship program. "The team of advisors, from technical coordinators to loan coordinators, is knowledgeable and fluent in their approach. They genuinely care about your success," she says.

The financial component of the program continues to be a great boon to her business. She is required to stay in touch with PYEP and participates in quarterly financial reviews to hone her business model.

In addition, Mangum-Thomas is a member of the PYEP Advisory Board, which encourages graduates to network with each other and utilize each other's services. "My business is a better business because of the PYEP program," she says. "Tomorrow it will be a great business because of the continued support of PYEP and its affiliates. I'm living the American Dream."

Some of the most important lessons Tamara Mangum-Thomas learned from PYEP are intangible. Here are some of the big ones:

* Persistence and diligence pays off.

* Relationships, no matter how small they may seem, are key.

* You cannot wait for things to happen. You--the business owner--have to make them happen.

* No one can share your vision better than you. Many will not understand the struggles of business ownership, so don't expect them to.

* You have to play like the big dogs--even while you are an underdog.

TOUGH TIMES BREED BUSINESS SMARTS

Underprivileged youths possess entrepreneurial gifts.

In 1998, Steve Mariotti, Founder of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurs hip, delivered an inspirational speech at the Hillsdale College Shavano Institute for National Leadership seminar in Memphis, Tenn. Here, an excerpt from "Solving the Problem of Poverty":

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I know a secret which, if fully understood by our government, business, and community leaders, could have enormous positive implications for the future of our society. Simply put, the secret is this: Children born into poverty have special gifts that prepare them for business formation and wealth creation. They are mentally strong, resilient, and full of chutzpah. They are skeptical of hierarchies and the status quo. They are long-suffering in the face of adversity. They are comfortable with risk and uncertainty. They know how to deal with stress and conflict.

These are the attitudes and abilities that make them ideally suited for breaking out of the cycle of dependency that so often comes with poverty and for getting ahead in the marketplace. En short, poor kids are "street smart," or what we at the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) call "business smart." Precisely because of their poverty--that is, because of their experience surviving in a challenging world--they are able to perceive and pursue fleeting opportunities that others, more content with their lot in life, tend to miss.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE BUSINESS PLANNING

Do act now! Don't put off writing a plan. The important thing is for you to be planning.

Don't confuse cash with profits.

Cash is money in the bank and profits are an accounting concept. You pay your bills with cash!

Don't overvalue the business idea.

An idea alone does not a great business make.

Work your plan; don't just write it.

Don't cheat on the details in the first 12 months. Your details are:

* Financials--Cash flow is the most important element.

Milestones

Dates

Responsibilities

Deadlines

Don't write too much. Keep your plan short and focused on your main priorities. Stick to the main points and use bullet points to keep those points highlighted and simple.

Focus on substance and not so much on style. Don't dress up your plan with multiple fonts, too many colors or complex page layouts. Don't hide the important information. Keep it simple.

Source: Mark Quinn, executive director of the Greater Newark Business Development Consortium, and Mitch Greene, instructor with the Prudential Young Entrepreneurs Program.
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Author:Anderson, Amy
Publication:Success
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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