Powering the Economic Energy of Next-Gen Entrepreneurs
By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc.
About 40% of American students say they plan to start a business and/or invent something that will change the world.
Asia Thurmon, a 10th grader at Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, and owner and founder of EZ Party Pack, is one such next-gen entrepreneur who identified a consumer service gap and filled it. Thurmon created an affordable party supply package delivery service that also partners with metro-Atlanta group homes to ensure that foster children experience memorable birthday celebrations. She was one of eight Atlanta-area middle and high school students, all graduates of the HOPE Business In A Box Academies (HBIABA) youth entrepreneurship initiative that pitched their businesses on the opening night of the HOPE Global Forums 2017 Annual Meeting. Thurmon won the pitch competition sponsored by Huntington Bank—receiving $1,500 to grow EZ Party Pack.
Like all the other young people on the stage that night who presented a variety of businesses—dance classes for girls from low-income households, trendy accessories, and even homemade cooking sauces—Thurmon demonstrated an intense passion for entrepreneurship and ownership in the future of her community, and by extension, the nation’s economy. So how can we—educators, policy makers and community leaders ignite, cultivate and maximize entrepreneurial passion among America’s youth, including those right here in Georgia—ranked #1 (4th year running) in U.S. for best state for small business?
Since 2011, the joint mission of Gallup and Operation HOPE has been to unleash the economic energy of America’s youth. We wanted to learn if the nearly 33 million American students in middle school and high school possess a spirit of free enterprise. We looked everywhere and could not find a single behavioral-economic nor predictive analytic on youth financial literacy around business and banking. So we created one.
The 2016 Gallup-HOPE Index holds answers to the most important questions for the future: Is America’s youth financially literate enough to solve the country’s economic and jobs problems? Do young people possess the spirit of free enterprise? Are students getting the opportunity to match their aspirations with the experience they need to boom America’s economy?
You’ll see from the report there’s been little progress on these measures. Students
remain optimistic but lack the financial literacy required to compete globally. This is bad news for America, as the country’s productivity growth has fallen nearly to zero.
The problem is, of the 40% 0f students that say they plan to start businesses, only 5% of these students are participating in internships at companies or organizations. This is arguably the single biggest national failure of our leadership. Not Washington’s, not the public schools’ — but yours and mine.
Given the current state of the nation and outlook for the future, investing in our aspiring young entrepreneurs, like Thurmon, is essential to developing the next generation of business builders and community transformers.
Our Index shows students remain optimistic but lack the financial literacy to compete globally with other students. We need to prioritize the economic engagement of today’s youth and promote financial literacy, financial dignity, and entrepreneurship, particularly to nonwhite youth in under-resourced communities around the country.
This the work of Operation HOPE through the support of our strategic partners and HOPE Corps volunteers who serve as classroom facilitators and business mentors for our youth financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs.
It’s clear that a major part of success comes from role modeling. Young people in our underserved communities simply do not witness enough direct representation of success.
If you hang around 9 broke people, you’ll be the tenth. Conversely, hang around 9 tech innovators and you’ll be the tenth; hang around 9 small business owners focused on creating jobs and opportunities in their communities and you’ll be the tenth. There are many bright, talented young people who were simply never taught the “language of money”; essentially missing the memo on how the economy works and how they must operate in it. These young people don’t understand that the economy is built on small business, by entrepreneurs—regular individuals just like them—who make small companies big.
With the mission of “silver rights” empowerment, Operation HOPE is engaging youth early with financial literacy and entrepreneurship training and mentoring—all critical factors in creating the nation’s next wave of business leaders who will ignite and sustain long-term economic energy in our communities. Join us.
About Financial Inclusion
Operation HOPE, Inc., powers the broadest financial inclusion network in the country. Through strategic partnerships with organizations like SunTrust Banks, Wells Fargo, and Coca-Cola, the nonprofit is making free enterprise accessible to all by equipping youth and adults with the financial training and tools to realize their aspirations and ensure their financial wellbeing. Through its core programs, Operation HOPE has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. Project 5117 is the organization’s multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth, and stabilize the American dream by boosting credit scores. The Atlanta Uplift 2020 initiative will escalate the organization’s services throughout the city to strengthen low- and middle-income families. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org
Volunteer with HOPE Corps: http://www.operationhope.org/hopecorps
Learn more about membership levels: https://www.operationhope.org/becomeapartner