The abrupt collapse of the coal industry impacted our region in ways we never could have imagined. Unfortunately, Eastern Kentucky’s youth weren’t spared from the resulting hardships.
When kids see empty storefronts, struggling family members, and no clear path forward, they hear the same story over and over again: There’s no opportunity for you here.
Despite the challenges we’ve collectively faced, hope remains. Our region’s circumstances are steadily improving with the help of schools, community partners, families, and a budding small business community.
For some, it can be hard to believe this is true. The relentless cycle of poverty robs people of hope, influencing how kids perceive the world and their place in it.
It’s up to us to shift these mindsets from hopelessness into hope. What will it take to rewrite this story for Eastern Kentuckians?
The Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan for Eastern Kentucky
SOAR put together the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan for Eastern Kentucky to answer these critical questions.
Eastern Kentucky’s youth need us to be their champions. Role models, teachers, and community leaders must work together to help kids understand they hold the keys to their futures. And their futures can start right here at home.
Together, we can build confidence in our students — and encourage them to pursue previously unthinkable opportunities.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan will help students identify new strengths and learn innovative ways of thinking. It’s a multi-year framework broken down into manageable steps that educators, community leaders, parents, and local business owners can implement.
As our region combats population loss and unemployment, creating pathways to entrepreneurship couldn’t be more critical.
Small business ownership is often overlooked as a career path in low-income areas. But, the traditional barriers to starting a business no longer carry as much weight. Today, there are more resources than ever to support new entrepreneurs.
Our goal is for more Eastern Kentucky students to grow up, graduate, and have the opportunity to build stable lives here. That starts with helping students believe in themselves, then gain the necessary skills to dream up, plan, and launch their own businesses.
Who needs to get involved in the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan
It truly takes a village to help students succeed. Every supportive adult must play a role in their entrepreneurship journey.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan lays out clear action steps for each stakeholder:
- Teachers: Learn how to advocate for entrepreneurship lessons, incorporate new learning modalities into existing lesson plans, and launch extracurricular programming.
- School administrators and boards: Understand why you must allocate funding to entrepreneurship programs and support teachers leading entrepreneurship initiatives.
- Parents and caretakers: See just how much your encouragement matters to students as they pursue academic and extracurricular opportunities related to entrepreneurship.
- Local entrepreneurs and investors: Find out how you can get involved as role models, speakers, mentors, and sponsors for student entrepreneurs.
Breaking down the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan
The Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan provides value to teachers and communities by:
- Providing thoughtful consideration for the circumstances affecting students today
- Proposing strategies for teachers to incorporate new learning modalities within existing lesson plans
- Activating school budget decision-makers with compelling reasons to fund and support teachers
- Outlining easy steps to follow for every phase of executing the plan
We firmly believe that entrepreneurship studies can stop discouragement from taking root in our students’ worldview — enabling the confidence they need to take risks and pursue nontraditional careers post-graduation.
Stakeholders can work toward these outcomes by implementing the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan framework.
Step 1: Mindset
Before students are exposed to hard skills related to entrepreneurship, we must first address their willingness to be open to new ideas.
This step focuses on helping students change their mindsets and embrace big-picture thinking, problem-solving, and experimentation. Redefining success and failure within the context of entrepreneurship will be critical.
Step 2: Skillset
Group work, presentation skills, and problem-solving are fundamental to entrepreneurship skills.
Now’s the time to challenge students further. Leverage their newfound willingness to explore alternative ways to learn. Ask them to embrace failure as opportunity, conduct thorough research, and develop the judgment to examine ideas critically in a business context.
Step 3: Toolset
With a strong foundation in place, students are ready to learn intermediate to advanced entrepreneurship skills.
Dive into writing business plans, managing financials and budgeting, pitching to investors, and other hard and soft skills. A pitch competition or another culminating event can bring exposure to students’ ideas, engage community stakeholders, and create a feedback loop for future program iterations.
Each phase of the plan prepares students for new, increased challenges in their entrepreneurship journeys:
- Mindset: We can’t push kids too far too quickly. This first step aims to redefine students’ long-held beliefs about themselves, their communities, and what’s possible for their future.
- Skillset: Working through sticking points and negative perspectives will help kids become more open to embracing big ideas — and the associated risks. In this step, it’s appropriate to introduce new reasoning skills, such as inventing innovative solutions to nebulous problems.
- Toolset: With this strong foundation in place, students are now ready to learn the concrete requirements of small business ownership.
What outcomes can we expect if we implement the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan?
If Eastern Kentucky schools launch entrepreneurship programs, our communities will receive broad benefits.
We can expect students to gain greater confidence and self-esteem. Whether or not they become entrepreneurs, our kids will have the chance to rewrite their own stories — and receive encouragement from parents, supportive adults, and teachers along the way.
High school graduation rates may improve. Entrepreneurship studies often pique the interest of students that struggle to succeed on traditional school testing and assignments. This program represents an opportunity to engage bright minds with new ways of learning.
We can slow or stop population loss by retaining more graduates. Let’s give students the opportunity to start their lives here at home after they finish their studies — instead of leaving, like so many have done.
A booming small business community will work wonders for our local economy. This program will help create a pipeline of future business owners committed to Eastern Kentucky’s success.
We can rewrite our story as Eastern Kentuckians. Our current circumstances don’t have to last forever. Support for this program translates to belief in our region’s future. If we provide enrichment opportunities for students, they’ll one day assume their roles in laying the groundwork for a more prosperous, thriving Eastern Kentucky.
Download the Youth Entrepreneurship Program Plan for Eastern Kentucky today
This plan walks you through every step you need to take to bring entrepreneurship into Eastern Kentucky schools.
We need the support of every program stakeholder to make this plan happen. Teachers, school boards, school administrators, families, local entrepreneurs, and other supportive adults must play a role in helping our kids reach for new opportunities.
Building a youth entrepreneurship program is a significant effort. You don’t have to do it alone. SOAR Innovation can help you get started. Contact the team today to learn about all the helpful resources available to you.