Workshop series offers training for young entrepreneurs

. April 1, 2018.

Two years ago, Debra Power had an epiphany. While volunteering with a local Girl Scout troop she realized that this group of third graders had some surprisingly viable business ideas which led her to wonder what kind of entrepreneurial visions middle-school and high-school students might have. That was the beginning of Running Start, an entrepreneurial workshop for youth.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Power has been the president and owner of Power Marketing Research in Ann Arbor for the past 17 years and also has years of experience working in nonprofits and economic development. In August 2017, she began talking with some colleagues about creating a workshop for teaching important entrepreneurial skills. Power soon devised the program that will launch its first cohort April 21.

Entrepreneurial process

Running Start is a series of four workshops, each two hours long, that guides both middle-school and high-school students through a progressive exposure to skills needed for starting their own businesses. The 25 participants in each age group, broken down between middle school and high school, will begin with ideation and then work through testing, marketing and pitching their businesses. Power emphasizes that the teens do not need to have an idea in order to register for the workshop. “Part of the process is coming up with an idea. The ideas will bubble up as they walk through the process,” she says.

Power’s target audience for this pilot program is “any student who is interested in gaining critical life skills.” Those skills include understanding how to be creative, to be a problem solver, and to be a critical thinker— skills that are “imperative no matter what job a student will have.”

Mentor-led learning

Since Running Start stresses the use of mentors to lead and guide participants through the program, Power has recruited an impressive group of Washtenaw County business leaders and entrepreneurs to deliver presentations and to work with students, including representatives from Ann Arbor Spark, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, Bodman, NewFoundry, Inovo Group and many others. Also included in the mentor group are two peer mentors, teens Naja Prince and Abi Middaugh, who have both started their own successful businesses, who set a powerful example for aspiring entrepreneurs.

At the end of the four-week session, students will have a completed workbook, which Power explains is essentially a business plan: “This will be sophisticated enough to take to a bank for a loan or to use when applying to college or middle college.” It will include sales goals, a startup budget, a logo and a business card, among other elements. For students who have viable ideas, Power envisions intense workshopping with a small group of students as a possible next step.

Scholarships available

Power hopes that after completing Running Start, young entrepreneurs will have the ability to say,“It’s within me to do this.” She says, “I want students to look at opportunities and never say, ‘I’m not sure I can do this.’”

Running Start
April 21, 28, May 5, 12
$99 (Need-based scholarships are available. To apply, go online).
GO Where Meetings Matter,
4735 Washtenaw Ave.