In 2018, when married couple Breann and Travis Hines began the Omaha, Nebraska-based nonprofit, Young Entrepreneurs of the Future Omaha (YEF), they set out on a mission. Their goals were to inspire the vision of youth entrepreneurship and develop self-reliance through business and imagination, along with the values and skills necessary for them to be successful.
Due to Nebraska schools’ important work of teaching core academic standards, the traditional school day is packed full of quality learning.
In the midst of all this day-to-day hard work, crucial skills such as business savvy, marketing, ownership, management, financial literacy, and leadership frequently don’t get the attention they deserve. If children and youth begin developing these skills early on, there’s no telling how high they can soar.
Despite the importance of learning to develop and monetize with a brand and business, there aren’t enough hours in the day…or ARE there?
Thanks to afterschool programming, we can expand beyond traditional school hours and well into the afternoons and evenings. While parents can work, they can also rest assured that their children and teens are safe, engaged, and learning life skills!
Beyond School Bells (BSB), Nebraska’s statewide network of afterschool professionals, works tirelessly with their equally energetic partners, including Bre and Travis, to support their efforts to create quality expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) across the state.
A Nebraska Children and Families Foundation initiative, BSB lives out our mission along with our co-collaborators, for all children, regardless of economic status or challenges, to thrive.
Naturally, we were excited to speak with Bre today to hear about her and YEF’s exciting new projects.
Like any successful endeavor, YEF didn’t come together overnight. What began as a small nonprofit with two afterschool program partners, the organization has spread like wildfire across 35 schools in Omaha, Council Bluffs, and several reservations. BSB is excited to support this husband-and-wife duo as they spread business-savvy throughout the state.
Bre said that her organization provides a deeper dive for K-12 students into the intricacies of running a business.
“Being an entrepreneur is so much more than starting a business!” said Bre. She explained that innovation is as important as understanding the inner workings.
Bre said that the goal of afterschool is to elicit passion, as that may turn into a student’s career!
“If you love to draw; you love to write; you like yard work; YOU can turn that [passion] into your own [operation],” she said.
Bre said that YEF rotates a series of eight-week sessions.
“We begin with business names, logos, and profits. We play mockup stores, so [students] can understand the money part.”
The team dedicates a lot of time to helping students understand the value and function of cash.
“Many kids don’t understand dollars or change, so we play register. We have a ribbon-cutting, we bring supplies, have a [mock] store and restaurant, and other students are their customers.”
Bre said, “For eight weeks, we do basic skills development, and then we rotate into a trade, or something else such as a T-shirt business, or cosmetology, where we teach braiding, skin, and lip gloss.”
Bre added that exploring broader fields like cosmetology can educate kids about the different sub careers.
“People think [cosmetology] is just hair; there’s so much more: nails, massage, eyelashes are all different subfields. We bring our mobile salon to schools as well,” she said.
What was the starting impulse for YEF? Bre said that her son inspired her and her husband, as he wanted to begin his own clothing line.
“We said, ‘If he wants this, then MANY kids do!’ Not every parent knows how to get [businesses] started.”
Bre explained that as parents of four kids, she and her husband are always stressing the importance of financial literacy.
“We’re always teaching them: seven cents for every dollar for tax.”
According to Bre, kids especially need to know how to count and track money, particularly in the digital age, when these skills wane in favor of apps such as Venmo.
“We get these kids into [understanding cash]; they don’t even use cash! They generally use apps,” she said.
“With my middle and high schoolers, they just have Venmo, or their moms tell them, ‘This is how much money I have.’ I say, ‘OK, if you have $10 and you’ll need to spend $20, how much do you have left?’”
Bre said that she and her team share important business-related terminologies, including profit, budgeting, what turns into a business, logo, and supply research.
Bre said that sparking students’ interests in the business world not only engages their creative side; when young people learn about becoming an entrepreneur, they also learn some of the realities behind the hard work required to succeed in every field.
“So many kids love TikTok and YouTube, and getting them paid is cool,” said Bre.
“[The incentive] is called ‘monetizing.’ You get so many views and followers, and you can get monetized! A lot of the reservation people love that,” she said.
Bre said, thanks to monetization, young people can create an audience who understands who they are and watch their progress. But in addition, Bre said that monetizing is only half of the challenge of succeeding as a YouTube or social media wonder.
“In a perfect world, everyone goes viral overnight. Even if you DO become viral, you still have to work and be consistent,” said Bre.
Another exciting enterprise includes hair braiding services, which according to Bre, young people love.
“Many of my youth know how to braid; in Nebraska, you don’t need a license!” she said. “We’re giving them the knowledge of different braids and confidence! Lots of them are hesitant to charge, but we explain how they can charge what they’re worth!”
The self-esteem that young people gain through these experiences inspires Bre. “Just by giving them confidence, the students have grown! Also, we have a place for them to work out of and feel like they belong,” she said.
In addition to learning life skills and gaining self-worth, being a young businessperson can also be quite delicious.
“Our newest addition is a food truck with Italian ice and waffles,” said Bre. “Kids have different manager roles. Students learn how to make a calendar and do inventory. Youth get paid as if [they’re working] any job.”
One of the most important things is that Bre and the team don’t confine young people to one role. According to Bre, they rotate different positions, so youth acquire a thorough knowledge of what each job entails.
As we draw closer to the summer, Bre said that she and her organization have bigger plans still.
“We have a summer program where [students] will learn sewing, and then we’ll build outfits,” she said.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want to do this,’ but youth need to see what’s behind the scenes. We must show them what goes into everything. With a plumber, you think, ‘toilets,’ but plumbing means so much more! If we show them the inside and outside, we can know what they want to do when they get older.”
Bre added that young people don’t often get the opportunity to shadow business owners, so she wants everyone to have this experience.
Above all, Bre says she wants to give children and youth the opportunities she wishes she had.
“I wish I had someone push me more; I’d have 12 businesses instead of six!” she said. “14 years ago, we began family entertainment, so we do temp tattoos, airbrushing, face painting; we ARE entrepreneurs ourselves, so we understand it!”
As someone naturally gifted at working with young people, Bre embraces children and youth from all walks, including those youth some people may misperceive as troublemakers.
Bre said she and her team cultivate a culture of respect.
“The way we train and talk to young people makes them respect us.”
“What I tell them is, ‘When you look for a job, you want someone to respect you. Nobody gets to treat you like you’re 16.’ They trust me; I have to do a good job.”
As someone who had a rough upbringing, Bre can understand and connect with young people who are assumed to misbehave.
“I didn’t come from the best past, so I can relate. These kids want structure. They don’t need a friend or parent, but a HUMAN, an adult who can talk to them!”
As Beyond School Bells knows, these moments prove that afterschool programming is also a place where children and youth can receive the attention they need and even create lifelong friendships and mentorships with their leads!
Above all, Bre coaches her young cohort to reach for the best and never let go.
“I tell these youth, ‘Don’t settle! If you’re doing a good job and you know it, remember there are MANY jobs and opportunities. Don’t ever settle.’”