Teens learn valuable lessons in entrepreneurship
A diverse group of area high school students spent 15 Saturday mornings last fall and spring exploring the possibilities and complexities of self-employment through the Entrepreneurship Training Program.
"Young people have the greatest potential to develop positive attitudes and business behaviors."
Professor Joseph Salamone
Funded by a grant from the Oishei Foundation and conducted by the School of Management and the Meszaros International Center for Entrepreneurship (MICE), the program focused on ethical entrepreneurship training and featured class exercises that encouraged team skills and critical thinking. Area entrepreneurs served as guest speakers, and students participated in a business plan workshop.
"When I first started, I didn't even know you had to have a business plan. I thought you could just go out and start a business," says Mark Malkiewicz, a student from City Honors High School. "The program taught me that you need financing and, in order to get that financing before you start, you need to have all your jobs in line, your place, your materials, your providers and your customers. It gave me a great understanding of what I'll need in the future."
"I liked that it was hands-on," says Kyle Blask, a student from Lancaster High School. "We learned a lot from actual businesspeople."
In the entrepreneurship competition that ended the 15-week program, the Style Me Fabulous team presented a plan for a plaza of personal care boutiques.
"Young people have the greatest potential to develop positive attitudes and business behaviors," says Joseph Salamone, co-founder of MICE, creator of the Entrepreneurship Training Program and associate professor of organization and human resources at the School of Management. "The entrepreneurship skills that students learned in this program-effective work habits, personal management and critical thinking-all transfer well into everyday life, and will help them to become high quality human assets."
"I learned so much in the 15 weeks of the program, such as what an entrepreneur does and how an entrepreneur is a calculated risk-taker," says George Alexander, a student from City Honors High School.
"It was definitely worth every Saturday and every hour we spent because it gave us a basic foundation that we can use for anything we do, whether in college or in business," says West Richter, another student from City Honors.
Salamone believes the program can have a long-lasting benefit to the local community. Not only could some of the students involved eventually become successful business owners due to the skills they learned, but the program also encouraged the participants to work with peers from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
"These kids made a big sacrifice, coming every Saturday morning for 15 weeks," Salamone says. "They were really bright and creative. It took them awhile to get over their shyness, but once they did, they really jelled, even though they were from many different schools."
The program culminated with an entrepreneurship competition in which seven teams of students presented their ideas for new business ventures. Entries ranged from a proposal to provide microfinance funding in Ghana to a unique restaurant concept to a fashion design business. Each team was composed of a mix of students from the 36 Buffalo, five suburban and four private schools that participated.
"It was definitely worth every Saturday and every hour we spent because it gave us a basic foundation that we can use for anything we do, whether in college or in business."
Student from City Honors
A business proposal for a high-tech gaming center earned the top prize. Members of the winning team included Alexander and Richter, along with Patrick Anhalt of Emerson School of Hospitality, Charles Beardsley of Burgard Vocational High School, Michael Cheaib of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Craig Nicpon of Burgard. They were each awarded a leather embossed attaché case.
Judges for the competition were Louis P. Ciminelli, chair and CEO of LPCiminelli Inc.; Cynthia M. Shore, assistant dean of corporate and community relations, School of Management; and Chris Meszaros, product manager, Synacor.
"This is an innovative and important program-important for the education of our youth, important for our future leaders and for our community," Shore says. "The knowledge and skills these students have acquired will serve them immeasurably in their future careers and throughout the rest of their lives."
Team members for The Blank Canvas wear the type of customized clothing and accessories their proposed business would provide.
"The program encourages students to explore and be innovative, ultimately creating better citizens," Salamone says.
"I learned more about teamwork and leadership ability," says Alyssa Ricigliano, a student from the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. "My favorite part, that influenced me so much, was the person who came in and said we should do 'what makes our minds smile.'"
Students also learned the meaning of ethical entrepreneurship. "We want them to realize that they have a number of options," Salamone says. "You may have to choose between making the most money or doing the right thing. We stressed that in the long run, if you want to survive and have people on your side, it's best to do the right thing."
Laszlo (Les) Meszaros '74, the successful entrepreneur who co-founded MICE, addressed the students at their graduation from the program. "Your opportunities are unlimited. Pick the best of your dreams and start to build on them," he says. "If you concentrate on the following three things in life-be all you can be, never give up and give more than you take-then you'll make a difference in your life and in the lives of others."