Plant a seed, grow entrepreneurship

Emerging Entrepreneurs Program inspires the next generation

 

It’s 11:30 on a Wednesday at St. Malachy’s high school.

28 students from grade 11 and 12 quickly fill up the seats in Ries Van Beek’s classroom.

There’s a buzz and the students are anxious to talk about what they’re working on.

“When I look at the enthusiasm in this class compared to a normal class, it’s off the charts.”

The class that has them so interested, is Van Beek’s entrepreneurship class.

He loves to see that, but he also knows part of that spark was lit by a lot of work done by Michele Lodge.  She runs the Emerging Entrepreneurship program with Enterprise Saint John.

“Michele, having worked with young people and being a former educator, she knows how to speak to young kids in a way that puts them at ease, gives them confidence and builds engagement, ” says Van Beek

While this is the third-year Van Beek has worked with Lodge. The program, meant to give students hands on experience with entrepreneurship has been around for 11 years.  As a former entrepreneurship teacher, herself, Lodge says she realized early on, students were only creating business plans for imaginary businesses.  The concept was too “pie-in-the-sky”.

“I figured if we could get them working on these markets where they could run them in schools for a day and sell to their fellow students, teachers, create business plans for these businesses, they would get a feel for the chaos, and the fun, the reward of what it’s like to run a business, at least for a day.”

In 2016 alone, more than 1900 students from St. Malachy’s high school, Saint John high school, Harborview high school, Simonds high school and Hampton high school have taken part in some form of the Emerging Entrepreneurs program.

“I will support teachers however they need support; some teachers just want me to come in for an afternoon to talk to the students about opportunities for entrepreneurship and what they can access. Others will want me to assist in full programs with markets.  I also go into community colleges and universities, too, ” says Lodge.

Back in the Van Beek’s classroom, students mull over logo and packaging ideas, marketing strategies and surveys and ask Lodge and Van Beeks questions. Lots of them.

But, they’re also excited to talk about why they love the program.

“It helps students explore their creativity, helps them find job opportunities that they never would’ve thought existed in their lifetime,” says Alex Lindsay.

He’s working on an app that tracks the best prices and shoe sizes of a popular brand at local stores. His partner, Alex White, says students shouldn’t be intimidated by entrepreneurship.

“Even if they don’t see themselves as an entrepreneur, come try it out because I didn’t think of myself as a person that could come up with ideas or even implement them. But once I got in here, ideas started happening and now I feel like I have a good idea for a business.”

He’ll get a chance to test out just how good of a business idea it is, shortly.

Entrepreneurship students from schools across the Saint John region hold markets at their schools during the month of December.

Then in January, a new group of students will be coming up with the next batch of business ideas.

“Really, you just need a little bit of support and you can make anything happen,” says student Alex White.

Seeing that kind of confidence and enthusiasm from students has motivated Michele Lodge for more than a decade and it’s what keeps her coming back time and again, to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Want your students to learn more about Entrepreneurship?  Michele can be reached at mlodge@enterprisesj.com

Originally published in the Saint John Telegraph November 20, 2016