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What does the future of youth entrepreneurship look like?

December 5, 2012

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Startup Nations Summit hosted by Startup Canada to observe presentations and dialogues about issues critical to better supporting entrepreneurs. This annual event brings together the leaders of entrepreneurship initiatives across the world to connect, share and learn.

Youth Entrepreneurship Boot Camp: MaRS Future Leaders Summer Session by Shape Collage*

On Day 2, we had an opportunity to sit down with leading experts and innovators during breakout groups to discuss vital issues, including youth entrepreneurship. Some of the topics that were raised included making entrepreneurship programs more accessible to youth, integrating entrepreneurial thinking into the Ontario K to 12 curriculum and shifting the perception that becoming an entrepreneur is not a “professional” occupation. The consensus was that the solution lies in getting youth’s attention, providing them with access to skills and resources, and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset at an early age.

According to a recent article published in the Toronto Star, there has never been a better time for young entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses: startup costs are low, technology is more accessible than ever and opportunities for mentorship and training are easier to come by.

Local programs supporting youth entrepreneurship are popping up everywhere: the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, The Next 36, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation’s Summer Company program and The Learning Partnership’s Entrepreneurial Adventure program are but a few examples.

This past summer, MaRS Future Leaders launched its own entrepreneurship boot camp for teens. In this weeklong session, students had the opportunity to invent and test an original business idea and take part in engaging activities, while being mentored by some of Toronto’s brightest entrepreneurs. Not only did attendees walk away with viable business ideas, they learned skills critical to their future success, including communication, teamwork, perseverance, creativity, critical thinking and goal setting.

To see our Future Leaders in action, watch this quick video:

Where are our Future Leaders now?

Natalie Ngo and Alexander Chan of Urban Garden Solutions won the pitch competition with The Herb Box, a simple and cost-effective way for amateur gardeners to grow their own herbs. Since launching their business, they now host a fully functioning website, publish a blog on gardening tips and tricks, and have expanded their product line to include a variety of box sizes, soil enhancer and plant food.

Alison Zhou, another Future Leaders alum, has partnered with MaRS Education to organize quarterly ‘Youth Meet-Ups‘ that bring together youth to network and meet others interested in entrepreneurship and to hear from seasoned entrepreneurs.

Are you between the ages of 13 and 15 and do you want to learn more about entrepreneurship?

Ignite your entrepreneurial spark! Apply now for the MaRS Future Leaders March Break session, taking place March 11 to 15, 2013.

*Shape Collage was the 2008 Entrepreneurship 101 Up-Start! Competition winner.

Resources:

Inc.com: “Training Young Entrepreneurs, One Lemonade Stand at a Time”
Toronto Star: “Youth entrepreneurs: Why launching a business from your childhood bedroom is more possible than ever (and here’s proof)”

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