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Youth Entrepreneurship, One Answer to Teen Unemployment

With teen unemployment elevated as a result of the economic downturn, teenagers can take control of their futures with some business knowledge, a marketable idea, and a lot of focused effort.

Times of high unemployment tend to be especially hard on teenagers. Nationwide, fewer than three in 10 teens are working in a summer job from June to August.  The Employment Policies Institute reports that teen unemployment in Georgia is nearly 28 percent, 11th highest in the nation and more than three times the overall national rate. According to the report, many jobs that traditionally went to teens are now being taken by older workers, immigrants, and debt-ridden college graduates who struggle to find other jobs in the weak economy.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”  – Peter Drucker, management expert

So what can teenagers do to find money-generating opportunities in a down economy, or any economy for that matter? In line with Mr. Drucker’s quote, a successful, prosperous future comes from creating employment and career opportunities through entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is a person who is willing to launch a new business, accepting full responsibility for the outcome. Entrepreneurship is empowering, allowing those who start a business to control their own destinies.

A survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship in August 2010 shows that business ownership continues to capture the imaginations of America’s youth, particularly for those who know a successful entrepreneur personally. Four in 10 young people have started or would like to start their own business one day. This number is unchanged from a previous survey conducted in 2007, indicating that the recession hasn’t dampened young Americans’ enthusiasm for business ownership. In fact, more teens are interested in starting their own businesses because of what they've witnessed with their parents and others – downsizing, layoffs, and increased workloads with no increase in pay. The old paradigm of “go to college and get a job” is losing its luster.

“Profits are better than wages.”  – Jim Rohn, success expert

I love that quote from the late Mr. Rohn. He went on the say that with wages you can make a living, but with profits you can make a fortune. To illustrate that point, remember that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were teen entrepreneurs well before they started Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.

A business can be created from an entirely new marketable idea, or making an existing concept better. As long as there is a need in the marketplace, the seeds for a business can be planted.  Two areas that young entrepreneurs are focusing their efforts on today are services and technology. Both service-based and technology-based enterprises are popular because of the low start-up costs thanks to the Internet. The ability to start a business online has lowered many barriers to starting a business faced by young people. All a teen entrepreneur needs is a domain name and a website to get started. The Internet offers an ideal platform to act on ideas quickly, easily, and cost effectively. An added benefit for teenagers: running an online business can be largely anonymous to customers, who never have to know your age.

In leveraging the Internet, the young entrepreneur can also market the business at a low or no cost. Even if the business is non-web-based -- such as selling jewelry, babysitting, yard work, house cleaning, dog walking, pool care, or tutoring – the Internet can serve as an invaluable marketing platform.  Additionally, social media has the potential of extending the reach of the business exponentially.

Beyond the money they are earning, teenagers say entrepreneurship has made them more mature. Teen entrepreneurs can relate better to the career experiences of their parents and other adults. They are also better prepared for the real world of college and career. Among the teenagers who start a business, about 20 percent end up in a company of their own as adults. The other 80 percent become better employees because they treat the company they work for as their own.

So how can a high school student learn more about successful entrepreneurship?

The DECA chapter at your high school offers a curriculum that teaches entrepreneurial concepts in marketing and business classes. Classroom instruction covers areas such as product development, financing, marketing, and more. School-based enterprises (such as a student store) are effective educational tools to build management, supervisory and leadership skills.

Besides the classroom curriculum and school-based enterprises, there are numerous DECA competitive events and conferences that offer great learning opportunities for the emerging young entrepreneur. To validate the value of the DECA’s commitment to entrepreneurship, members are five times more likely to want to own their own business.

As DECA alum and entrepreneur Diane Keng explained, “Without DECA, I wouldn’t even be an entrepreneur. That’s how significant DECA is to my life. It’s opened my eyes, because I wasn’t forced to memorize facts from a textbook. DECA is about applying your knowledge, and I believe that is the key to truly learning something.”

Don’t settle for not having a job because there is nothing available. Learn about entrepreneurship and then take an idea that fills a need in the marketplace and make it happen.  It’s a pretty good feeling when the only way to meet with the boss is to find a mirror.

Editor's Note: Lauren Calvert is the current President of Georgia DECA, a rising senior at South Forsyth High School and Cumming Patch blogger.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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