Whether you’re an architect, a product designer, a writer, a marketer, or a business owner, one thing is for certain – you’ll fail magnificently.
Although failure can feel like a let-down, in actuality this skill is essential to developing yourself in the most highly competitive fields. Sadly, due to time and testing constraints, schools don’t always teach students how to fail magnificently.
Happily, afterschool programs can do just that!
Breann Hines, co-founder of Young Entrepreneurs of the Future (YEF), and Scott Mann, the Director of Education and Training at VentureLab, are committed to empowering young people. And yes, experimenting, collaborating, and failing are important to these young people’s successes!
“The term is ‘iteration’ in product development, and the same concept applies to learning and growth. These youth get to develop, sometimes be exposed for the first time, to leadership and employability skills, which creates a confident youth!” said Scott.
Bre and Scott are committed to empowering young people.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is delighted that Beyond School Bells (BSB), our statewide afterschool network, could put organizations like these in touch.
We’re glad to know that statewide afterschool initiatives can spread like wildfire to all 50 states. When everyone, including our dedicated team of afterschool professionals, advocates for policies and educational incentives to enhance afterschool, we all win.
We’d like to bring the message to light: afterschool programming isn’t just babysitting; to be sure, as America After 3 (AA3) reveals, quality afterschool programming keeps kids and youth out of trouble.
Still, afterschool offers much more. In addition to engaging kids and keeping them safe, quality afterschool programming can open up worlds to STEM careers, robotics, and startup skills!
When BSB first received a grant from the CS Mott Foundation’s 50 State Afterschool Network to fund youth entrepreneurial partnerships, Nebraska became one of only five states at the time to fuel the rising trend of engaging kids in creative, entrepreneurial programming. Now, there are 17 states that received the grant.
VentureLab, BSB’s partner, is an education nonprofit dedicated to enhancing programs that empower children and youth with entrepreneurial mindsets and skills. The organization is a technical assistant to CS Mott’s 50 State Afterschool Network in youth entrepreneurship and supports BSB’s network with resources to provide youth and educators with affordable professional development and quality learning materials.
As an initiative dedicated to connecting organizations with learning partnerships, BSB welcomed VentureLab as subject matter experts who offer no or low-cost resources to help build Nebraska’s afterschool partnerships.
“VentureLab provides [supports] like relationship-building, knowledge transfer, and resources in curriculum training development,” said Scott.
Scott said that when it comes to helping young people develop business startup skills, these organizations’ collaborations are essential.
“[In] helping BSB develop and strengthen partnerships, building ecosystems is a part of that, specifically in entrepreneurship,” he said.
Scott said that Nebraska 4-H has a strong and historic youth entrepreneurship program with which BSB had collaborated in the past.
Scott has led trainings through BSB’s facilitated network for Nebraska Extension educators.
“Relationships and connections are a big part of the work,” said Scott.
“VentureLab brings that value; BSB can use [our support] to reach out to partners and provide subject matter expertise,” he said.
Nebraska 4-H’s club-based afterschool modules and VentureLab’s expertise created not only a program for young entrepreneurs but also a mindset.
“VentureLab believes that being an entrepreneur is more than starting a business, but a way of thinking and acting,” said Scott.
“Those mindsets are present when someone is problem-solving, has empathy, and experiences failure as an opportunity to learn and persevere and help others,” he said.
Bre agrees. Business savvy is more than a mindset. As Bre leads young people through activities designed to help them create their own startups and brands, she imparts them with wisdom.
“You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to open a business.’ You have to teach [kids] that you have a voice; use your voice. Society says you can’t use your voice; it seems like sassing, so I tell [students], ‘The way you say things is important because you need to use your voice!’” said Bre.
Bre said that she learns just as much from the student-participants as they learn from her.
“We’re still adults, but we’re so stuck. We think we need to put kids in their place. The first thing I come into class with is, ‘I respect you if you respect me; no bullying. If you have something to talk about besides this class, then let’s talk about it!’”
Scott said that he’s excited that BSB hired VentureLab to provide mentorship services and materials to organizations like Bre and YEF. VentureLab even delivers an exciting startup grant to these young people.
“We provide up to $500 of material support,” said Scott.
Throughout his work in Nebraska, Scott said he’s come across some incredible young people, some of whom worked with Bre, including a 12-year-old youth named Sage.
“Sage had an apparel company,” said Scott. “He is an amazing young man [who started] the business Royal Refuge.”
Scott said that Sage’s brand spreads a socially-conscious and creative message.
“His brand [intended], as he said, to ‘provide unity and empowerment for all my kings and queens out there.’”
Scott said Sage’s tagline included the invitation, “I am Royal Refuge! Will you be too??”
Scott was struck by Sage’s ongoing gratitude in the wake of his business.
“He sent me a card and said, ‘Thanks for teaching me about business; you taught me a lot! I hope you like your merch. His mom and dad said, ‘This mentorship is amazing!’ His dad said, ‘Thank you for supporting and guiding him. I’ve seen him grow in this, VentureLab!’”
Best of all, young entrepreneurs can run in the family, as Sage’s sister is now part of the program and works with Bre.
“This is where the relationship that connects to BSB and connects to YEF is a collaborative effort,” said Scott.
“We like to think about [our partnerships] as a continuum of support, and at any moment, a youth can have an experience with Bre, and she can have them work with VentureLab and have experiences with STEM.”
Bre agreed that she’s constantly engaged with the ways young people put their ideas to the test, and so does she!
“Our newest thing is we put kids in groups. They learn how to cook and have competitions and [host] judges. [This activity] is fun for them, and we bring entrepreneurship into it because many kids want to do culinary activities,” she said.
In addition to having fun, however, Bre is also engaging kids in life skills.
“We have our own food truck or eatery. We bring in the food; we also have a professional chef who teaches youth how to cook, then we have [students] read recipes off the box to learn how to read directions. We give them life skills, so when they become adults, they understand how to read directions, what a cup is, a half-stick butter, a teaspoon, this [activity] reaches into all things.”
Bre explained that no matter how effective parents are, their busy lives may get in the way of instructing some of these activities, which she’s more than happy to lead.
“It’s fun to watch [youth] get a box of cake mix, and follow the instructions, so their cake comes out well. We love to watch all the kids and say, ‘You guys really need this.’ I’m not blaming parents! They may be single or work three to four jobs!”
Above all, Bre infuses her protegees with a sense of self-worth and empowerment.
“I tell them all the time, ‘You’ve got this. You’re not going to fail.’ I’m a huge youth advocate; youth are our future. I’ll get texts from them at all hours, ‘Miss Bre, how’s this price for my cookies? How’s this price for my TikTok?’ I’ll say, ‘Let’s break this value down.’ I have an open door. They can text and email, or jump on IG and ask me a question at any time,” she said.
Scott shared yet another success story. A youth named Jose worked with Bre and started his own candy company.
“It was brilliant,” said Scott. “For this business, he bought candy in bulk and had a recipe with a spicy Mexican blend. He’d coat and repackage the candies. He had a good thing going. He was profitable.”
For Jose, the sky and even the galaxy seem to be the limit. “Now he’s working on a project that elected him to join a robotics group through NASA,” said Scott.
Scott describes his partnership with Bre and others as a narrative of the continuum of opportunities, of which BSB is responsible, as they connected VentureLab and Bre, whose students hail from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
“We would not have met [YEF] these if BSB had not brought us together,” he said.
Find out more about Beyond School Bells
Hi there. I totally agree with you for reiterating that keeping our youth busy with skill development activities outside of school hours could prevent them from loitering and having delinquent tendencies. There are a bunch of youngsters in my neighborhood who’ll be spending their summer break wondering what they should do. I’ll suggest this kind of choice to them so they could enroll into the right program.