Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pittsburgh Nonprofit Entrepreneuring Youth Helps Ignite Students' Dreams

Pittsburgh has been getting all kinds of accolades recently for being a hotbed for entrepreneurs.

Now, if you're a Pittsburgh-area middle school or high school student with a great business idea and aspirations of soon being your own boss, one nonprofit wants you to envision yourself among them.

Entrepreneuring Youth (known as E Youth) is helping young people learn about business creation and experience ownership. By partnering with educators, parents, and youth work professionals, they use entrepreneurial learning to help students create opportunities, build abilities and gain confidence.

And it's right here in our city, giving students opportunities to think about a future that they may have otherwise believed to be out of reach. I'm happy to help promote this worthy cause because when I first moved to Pittsburgh, E Youth President Jerry Cozewith was one of the first people I met. We sat next to each other at a Pittsburgh Technology Council conference, and Jerry was extremely gracious, helpful, and supportive to me as I began to find my way professionally.

A few weeks ago, my new friend John (he of the esteemed Pittsburgh blog Ya Jagoff!) asked me to consider writing a blog post about E Youth's Ignite Possibilities event. I couldn't say no. (Plus, you kind of don't say no to the guy who writes Ya Jagoff. I mean, rilly.) 

At E Youth's Ignite Possibilities business expo, scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, June 6 at The Rivers Club, Downtown, some of the area's brightest middle school and high school students will have the chance to showcase their business ideas and plans to Pittsburgh's civic leaders and business people. It's all part of the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Tippins Foundation and named in honor of one of Pittsburgh’s most successful entrepreneurs, inventors and financiers. (That would be George W. Tippins.)

Most importantly, says my friend Jerry Cozewith, it's about what the possibility of owning a business can represent to someone exploring what they want to do in life and the skills needed to get there.

"The Ignite Possibilities event serves as a celebration of youthful entrepreneurship and the positive life lessons it fosters," he said. "Each year our attendance grows as more adults learn about the initiative and spirit of self-motivation being cultivated among our young people."

"Constructive competition is an integral component of E Youth's innovative programs," Cozewith continued.  "The competitions provide entrepreneurship students a unique opportunity to hone their marketing, presentation and communication skills, network with local business leaders who serve as competition judges and coaches, and compete for seed capital grants to support their business or academic goals."

During the pre-event reception, several young business owners will receive seed capital awards to launch or grow their business. The first-place finisher will earn a trip, sponsored by E Youth, to a national competition conducted by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)  in New York City later this year. Last year, that distinction went to brothers Jesse and Josiah Council, ages 14 & 15, co-founders of J&J's Soothing Cream. They finished as national runners up, earning $5,000 to invest in their education and their business growth.

You can learn more about Entrepreneuring Youth by visiting www.eyouthamerica.org. The Igniting Possibilities event is free, but registration is needed. To register:

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