The Youth Entrepreneurship Program presents the perfect opportunity for Native youth to learn what it takes to launch a small scale entrepreneurial venture — commonly known as a “Side Hustle”. Through a range of onsite and online training, participants will understand how to develop their creative entrepreneurial side and re-invent their notions of starting a small business.

How the Program Works

The program is designed to take place over the course of several weeks with a combination of online and onsite training.  The training begins with a fun-filled 2-day workshop where participants will engage in team building and other experiential exercises designed to help them open their mind to creative thinking and discovering potential entrepreneurship opportunities. Following the 2-day onsite training, youth who are interested in further developing their business idea can continue to learn and get assistance by participating in a private Facebook group led by IDRS Acorn Project Youth Director, Camille Koster.

In the online portion of the training, participants watch two short videos each week, respond to questions, engage in discussion with other youth in the program and receive assistance in developing a business plan appropriate for the side-hustle model. According to Koster, “At the end of the program, the youth will have learned basic business development skills, setting goals, defining success, and how to refine their business based on analytics and simple testing. It is up to them if they want to launch their side hustle, but we will give them all of the knowledge they need to make it happen. The most rewarding aspect of this training is seeing youth learn and understand the possibilities around them they’ve never noticed before. The global and digital economy has made it easier than ever to create small business opportunities, even from remote rural locations.

Our Approach

Based on previous experience, the IDRS Acorn Project is implementing two major shifts in the approach to teaching youth entrepreneurship.

The first is to encourage youth to create small businesses based on their current hobbies, skills, abilities, and experiences to develop what is commonly known as a side-hustle.  The side hustle approach teaches youth how to generate, choose and develop business ideas which take little or no money to start and can be managed while retaining focus on primary goals in life, such as attending school.

The second change is to increase the amount of time staff are engaged with the youth.  Mark Thompson, Executive Director stated “In the past, our onsite time was extremely productive and fun with most youth showing excitement about the possibility of starting their own business.  However, it just wasn’t enough time to truly build their skills and abilities nor enough time for us to create a true mentor/mentee relationship that could propel them further. We have now adjusted the program to be an 8-week combination of online and onsite learning”.

Changing the way the program is delivered benefits youth participants in several ways:

  1. Information is delivered in smaller chunks over a longer period allowing participants time to process and understand the information
  2. The Facebook platform is a way of learning and communicating youth are familiar and comfortable with
  3. Participants get to know our staff better which helps them become more comfortable when seeking help with their business idea
    There is an opportunity to network with youth from other Native communities who are also participating in the program

Additionally, most other programs teach the principles of entrepreneurship with the intent of simply exposing youth to the idea of entrepreneurship but not acting on it until they are adults.  Our approach encourages them to start thinking and doing now!

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