How often do you consider teenagers to be a threat to your business? And no, I’m not talking about them vandalizing your building or stealing chocolate bars from your store.
Well, these teens are seriously impressive. They’re running businesses, and if you’re not careful they could be stealing your customers.
The Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island has set up the first Teen Entrepreneur Club in Canada (TEC) right here on my doorstep, in the Comox Valley. Back in the new year, I heard about it and leaped at the chance to get involved and offer to speak or run a workshop or whatever they needed. As a parent of a teen myself, it just sounded like a no-brainer to offer local kids the chance to have a go at starting up a business, and see what entrepreneurship is all about. I wasn’t alone in my sentiments, and the support from the local business community was quite overwhelming.
They spent months learning skills and developing ideas under the careful direction of Vivian Vaillant, which they would then pitch to a team of business gurus (or Dragons, if you will) in a bid to win from an incredible array of prizes that would help them take their business ideas even further.
So when I showed up in May to do a workshop with them on dealing with fear and developing courage, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure if my workshop would be pitched at the right level for them. Bear in mind it’s a while since I was a teenager, and I wasn’t sure if they would be experiencing the same challenges that I normally help entrepreneurs and business owners with. What actually happened was that I was floored by the enthusiasm, engagement, and the sheer talent that met me. Their ideas, and their products, were genuinely impressive. And their ages ranged from just 13 to 18. And yes, their challenges with fear were just like yours or mine!
So I was even more excited to be able to volunteer some time to coach a couple of them before their pitches to the dragonian crew on Friday of last week.
Pitching an idea in three minutes is not easy. Standing up in front of a room full of people and presenting is not easy. You’re trying to tell your story, introduce your idea and your product, inspire confidence in your product or your service, AND explain why you should win the prizes you want. And fitting in into three minutes is the least of your worries when even trying to organize your thoughts is tricky!!
But six teens pitched, and six teens did amazingly well. All I can say is that I felt proud, humbled, inspired, and really excited about what this opportunity means for those teens. They have the makings of real businesses, offering real inventions, real ideas, and real services. They have a fresh approach, untainted by cynicism. And the package is all tied up with drive, enthusiasm, and skills that I sure wish I had learned before I finished high school, because it would have saved me making a bunch of errors!
Check out the big winners here: trustasl.com – Mattias and Jordan’s AgeSexLocation clothing line came to the challenge ready for market, with a pitch that hit all the marks, with great preparation, creativity and enthusiasm, knowing their ideal client, knowing what they needed to get going, and thoroughly impressing everyone at the event. Watch out for these guys opening a pop up store on 4th Street, Courtenay, BC, this summer.
Big congratulations also to Mitchell, Noah, Tengis, Josiah and Frank, who all won prizes to help take their business ideas to the next level, and to Sascha and Brody, who did a great job of hosting the challenge. Thank you all of you, and I will look forward to hearing about what you do next.
TEC is back in the fall in the Comox Valley with a new program. My recommendation – yes, tell your friends, enrol your kids or yourself. Better still, I’m recommending that Boys & Girls Club rolls this out across Canada. In a world where job security ain’t what it once was, teaching the next generation about enterprise (no, not the Star Trek variety) seems like a no-brainer to me.