Kevin Weiss, Young Ambassadors Council
A few years ago, some researchers explored commonalities among the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Hoping to come up with the best predictors of success, they looked at education level, economic background, race, gender, parents’ occupations, test scores, personality types, and many other possible contributing factors. None of these things really mattered. It turns out, one distinct factor is the best predictor of who will be the next Warren Buffets of the world: The age of your first business.
Last week at the Ritz Carlton in downtown DC business people, political figures, non-profit leaders and everyone in between gathered to support the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) at their annual Dare to Dream Gala. A few hundred of Washington’s most successful people were in a room, but the focus was on 50 high school students. Why? These students are 16 years old, and entrepreneurs. At various tables throughout the ballroom these students were not only showcasing their businesses, but they were selling their products and services to the smiling guests.
NFTE’s mission is to give students the tools they need to raise themselves out of poverty. Through a basic entrepreneurship course, NFTE is making math and writing relevant while also developing the world’s next job creators. At the gala, one student had a landscaping service, another a clothing line, a third a granola bar company. These students understand the fundamentals of their written business plans, have business cards, were shmoozing with the crowd, yet are a few semesters shy of high school graduation.
As the student shops closed, people headed into the main dining room where NFTE’s name made more sense. One of DC’s biggest and most energetic networking events was happening while supporting youth entrepreneurship. Many of these people were wondering where they would be had they become entrepreneurs in high school. One student, Rodney Walker, stole the show with his NFTEtale story. After being raised in horrible circumstances, deeply involved in drugs and gangs, and running from one foster home to the next, Rodney found NFTE. He was fascinated by business, was good at it, and it changed his life. Now, Rodney is a senior at Morehouse College, still running his business and on track to be, well, whatever he wants. This is what NFTE does, and this is what supporters saw first hand at the Dare to Dream Gala.
Some highlighted guests that represented the theme of “locally grown entrepreneurs” included
- Aaron Batalion – Living Social
- Elliott Bisnow – Summit Series
- Matt Curry – Curry’s Auto Service, Inc.
- Seth Goldman – Honest Tea
- Michelle Lee – STG International, Inc.
- Mark Michael – Occasions Caterers
- Ada Polla – Alchimie Forever
- Warren Thompson – Thompson Hospitality
NFTE’s Dare to Dream Gala was nothing short of awesome. I think every attendee there is excited to see what these young entrepreneurs succeed in. The money raised at the gala will train more NFTE teachers, provide more materials to classrooms, and above all, give more students the opportunity to experience NFTE.