Topaz Samuels possesses $50 and a strategy for making a profit. "I am placing an order for alien yo-yos, glow-in-the-dark alien watches, and imitation mobile phones," Ms. Samuels states as she completes a purchase order. "One item costs $3, so I will most likely sell them for $6."
"You should aim to sell them for at least $6," advises Ted Tyson, the divisional director of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, New England. "Never underestimate the value of your time as an entrepreneur."
For additional information, please contact the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship at 120 Wall St., 29th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Their phone number is (212) 232-3333, and their fax number is (212) 232-2244. More information can also be found on the NFTE World Wide Web site, www.nftebiz.org.
For Ms. Samuels and her 39 classmates gathered at the John Hancock Conference Center, Beanie Babies, "alien" watches, fake phones, and yo-yos are not just passing trends but a means of generating income. In nine days, they will be selling their products on Newberry Street, a fashionable location in this city. Through this experience, they will learn about market demand, salesmanship, and business management. This initiative is conducted by the Boston Police Department and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization in New York City that aims to assist low-income teenagers nationwide in starting and operating their own businesses. This year, 6,500 students will participate in NFTE programs, most of whom are between the ages of 14 and 18.
"The NFTE program’s vision is to equip every low-income youth with the knowledge to pursue economic independence through entrepreneurial education," says Mike Caslin, the CEO of NFTE. "Our goal is to foster an entrepreneurial culture through education by providing young people with a set of skills, values, and attitudes that they can utilize to take control of their lives."
The program follows a trimester schedule, with fall and spring semesters offering both in-school and after-school programs, and a summer semester consisting of smaller "BizCamps." The spring and fall classes can be taken for course credit. Each program requires students to master 21 competencies, including writing a business plan, generating sales, opening a bank account, creating a business card, and conducting themselves in a professional manner. At the end of the program, students present their plans to a panel of local business leaders.
"There are countless undiscovered talents across this country," Mr. Caslin remarks when discussing students from low-income areas. However, according to a national study conducted last year for the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a nonprofit organization in Washington, many students graduate from high school with limited knowledge of personal finance. The study tested 1,509 high school seniors on their understanding of basic financial concepts, such as income, money management, saving and investment, and spending. The majority of students failed.
"The poor results can mainly be attributed to the fact that this subject matter is not being adequately taught in schools," says Dara Duguay, the executive director of the Jump$tart Coalition. NFTE aims to increase student awareness of financial matters. "We start with the students’ existing knowledge base and tap into their energy and passions to help them explore local market opportunities," explains Mr. Caslin.
Boston’s Summer of Opportunity program, established in 1994 by the city police department and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., targets inner-city teenagers who are striving to turn their lives around. This year, the program partnered with NFTE. "The program delivers information in a way that we can understand," says Tchad Cort, a 15-year-old student. "We learn how to communicate effectively, what it takes to work in a team, and how to learn from other people’s ideas." Jason Julien, aged 17, adds, "It gives us ideas that we can connect to other subjects and careers."
Overall, this program provides students with valuable skills, knowledge, and experiences that will empower them to take charge of their financial futures.
Today’s agenda includes a collective discussion about issues in software, a visit to a wholesale retailer, and a stock market game where each student must track a stock for five days. The student who achieves the highest gain in their stock will be declared the winner. In response to this, NFTE teacher Charlotte McCullough asks the class, "What are the potential risks here? Not being the winner?" She goes on to say, "What are the rewards for taking risks? You could be the winner in this situation."
Ms. McCullough, who regularly instructs computer operations and programming languages at Madison Park, has been utilizing the NFTE curriculum since 1991. She explains, "It enables us to approach the curriculum from various angles. NFTE helps us provide students who may one day start their own businesses with valuable knowledge. And if not, they will still benefit from understanding key aspects of the business world."
Teachers involved in the program are required to undergo at least 16 hours of training on teaching a fundamental NFTE class and are certified by the foundation for a year. Currently, there are over 900 teachers who possess this certification.
Preparing for the Future
When Kathleen Jeanty was 15 years old, she applied for the program with the sole intention of going on a vacation. "I didn’t care what I was doing," she recalls. "I simply saw it as an opportunity to get away from home." Four years after attending the 1994 BizCamp at Babson College, Ms. Jeanty now co-runs Kay Jay Enterprises, a marketing and public relations firm with her partner, Jaynell Grayson, who is also a former NFTE student. Additionally, she is attending Babson on a full-tuition scholarship and is set to graduate in December of 1999. During her time with NFTE, Ms. Jeanty developed a business plan for a clothing-design company targeting the elderly, a venture she hopes to pursue later in life.
"Business had never really crossed my mind," Ms. Jeanty admits. "But after attending the class, I started contemplating more and more about what I can achieve in the business world." As the day winds down at the Boston BizCamp/Summer of Opportunity program, Tynekia Smith is busy collecting information for her business card. "I need a name for a record company," she states. "And not just any name, but a meaningful one. This is a serious endeavor."
For Ms. Smith, the NFTE program is not only assisting her in planning a small business but also preparing her for life. "For what I want to achieve, it’s an ideal starting point," the 16-year-old explains. "The program equips us with the necessary skills and gives us an advantage. I ultimately aspire to work with stocks and bonds, even on Wall Street."