Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) is an educational program that started in 1991 in Wichita by Liz and Charles Koch with support from Georgia-Pacific. It has now grown into a successful entrepreneurship curriculum taught in nearly 200 classrooms across America. Over 25 years and more than 35,000 students later, it continues teaching practical economic principles, the benefits of a free enterprise system and real-world business skills.
YE ignites a passion in students for business education and entrepreneurship—the same passion of principled entrepreneurship that is encouraged among GP employees. YE brings classroom lesson plans to life and truly allows students to have the opportunity to experiment and find out what their strengths are for themselves. Students develop business ideas, practice pitch proposals and receive consistent mentorship.
A main component of putting these young students on the right path to entrepreneurship is giving them the right tools–this is exactly where networking comes into play. The students are able to take their experiences and knowledge provided by the YE program then connect with business leaders and make those strong and invaluable connections.
For the second year, YE has held a Summit where alumni can network with other fellow alumni, professionals and partner organizations–including a few Koch organizations such as, Georgia-Pacific, Molex and Guardian® Industries. This year’s summit was held in Detroit, a city undergoing a massive transformation within itself and according to inc.com, is one of the 50 Best Cities in America for Starting a Business. This big city setting provided real-life experiences that set a foundation for the success of the three-day event. During the event, more than 600 students, educators and partners focused on personal transformational and entrepreneurial innovation through a variety of workshops, discussions and activities.
“It was simply amazing to spend the week with a group of students and educators that were so obviously enthusiastic and dedicated to helping their students overcome obstacles,” said Alastair Waling, a Koch employee and mentor for the YE Summit. “The same entrepreneurial principles that have brought success to so many individual employees at Georgia‐Pacific, are the same ones that we’re teaching the kids.”
Watch the video at the top of the article to see the students soak up some knowledge from local change-makers, entrepreneurs and educators during the Summit!