By Saba Long
Often times when reading the story of a successful company, the entrepreneur started exploring business opportunities at a young age. It has been no different for JuShawn Carter, a recent participant of Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia (YE- GA) and a May graduate of Benjamin E. Mays.
“My family has always encouraged me to work for and support myself,” said Carter, a college-bound senior. “I even started a bean bag businesses with my grandfather once.”
During her junior and senior year at Mays, Carter honed her entrepreneurial skills through a Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia sponsored elective.
The program originated in Wichita, Kansas under the leadership of Elizabeth Koch, wife of Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. In 2005, the company purchased Georgia-Pacific and decided to replicate its philanthropic success in Wichita by partnering with Atlanta Public Schools, again focusing on at-risk minorities.
In just seven years, YE-GA has worked with 1,400 APS students, enabling them to productive members of society. The curriculum, developed by the global nonprofit — Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, focuses on four points: stimulating economic thinking skills; encouraging creative, intelligent risk-taking; providing practical business experience and instilling independence and personal responsibility.
For JuShuawn Carter, the Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia curriculum allowed her to improve her existing business — Cakes by 14. While in the program, she developed and implemented business and marketing plans for her company and has experienced an increase in sales. Just last month, Carter traveled to New York City for the first time where she was named a Global Young Entrepreneur of 2013 by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Where YE-GA excels is in exposing young, hungry minds to the possibilities of entrepreneurship by introducing them to successful business owners in numerous seminars and mentorship opportunities.
While there is not an expectation that each student continues his or her business after matriculating through high school, a foundation for career success and an appreciation for the free market is firmly rooted in the students’ minds.
After realizing much success at Mays and also Southside High, the team at YE-GA is ready to tackle new markets through a deliberate growth strategy. Previously solely supported by Georgia Pacific, the organization is now stepping out of the fold and will launch its own capital campaign. There are conversations underway to expand to other APS schools and also to metro Atlanta counties.
The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship research shows when youth participate in entrepreneurship studies, interest in attending college increased 32 percent and occupational aspirations increased 44 percent.
This fall, Jushawn Carter plans to attend at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina where she will further her business by majoring in baking and pastry arts – thanks to the mentorship and opportunities she received through Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia.