Learning entrepreneurial skills at a young age can be incredibly beneficial, both for kids that end up running businesses as adults and for those who go on to pursue more traditional career paths. And one company is working to bring those skills to classrooms around the country.

Teaching Kids About Business

Virtual Enterprises International sets up virtual businesses in classrooms around the country and even in a handful of countries around the world. In these classrooms, students actually run hypothetical businesses using real world concepts. Each of them is assigned a role within the company and they have to learn how to work together, source products, market their offerings and complete all of the other essential tasks that go into running a business. The classrooms even connect with one another to form a sort of virtual economy.

Virtual Enterprises president and national program director Nick Chapman said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “It’s about learning business by actually doing business. We give them the opportunity to go hands on, fail, succeed and learn that way, which is so important. It offers much greater potential than simply learning from a textbook. They get to learn leadership, collaboration and communication skills by actually running meetings and completing projects and tasks that you wouldn’t get in a traditional class.”

The program’s goal isn’t necessarily to make more young people into entrepreneurs. The businesses are set up so students can try out different jobs and learn about potential career opportunities as well. But of course, by giving students a taste of what it’s like to run a business, some do go onto run their own — even in high school in some cases.

Jacob Norwood is one example of this. A student entrepreneur from V.R. Eaton High School near Ft. Worth, TX, Norwood serves as the CEO of Connocrate, a Virtual Enterprises business. But he and his classmates have also started an actual business with a similar focus, Canivet, a specialty coffee brand also donating a portion of its earnings to first responders.

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Norwood acknowledges he’s always had some entrepreneurial qualities, but he didn’t learn how to apply them in a business setting or even really consider it as a path until he started taking his school’s business classes leading up to the VE business course.

He said in a recent phone interview with Small Business Trends, “The business academy has opened my eyes and showed me that this is something I can grab hold of and really pursue.”

Norwood and some of his classmates intend to keep the business going after they graduate and go off to college next year. However, he echoed Chapman’s point about the exercise in entrepreneurship being valuable even for the students who choose to pursue more traditional career paths.

He adds, “One of the biggest things you get out of the class comes from the the leadership and teamwork skills that are so necessary to make everything run smoothly.”

Virtual Enterprises is hosting a Youth Business Summit this April 18-19 in New York City where students act as participants in a trade show, participate in business plan competitions, and get the opportunity to interact with other student entrepreneurs around the country.



Images: VEI, Jeffrey Holmes; Top Image: Youth Business Summit 2016; Second Image: Nick Chapman (left) with students from Brooklyn