Should entrepreneurial skills be taught in the core curriculum of schools around the world? Yes.
Is classroom based teaching sufficient to prepare people – young or old – to start or grow a business? No.
From my 18 years of helping women and young adults around the world to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors with Making Cents, here’s what I have learned about the elements of effective and responsible programming to prepare people:
Tailor your “entrepreneur” program on the specific needs of your audience.
For example, Making Cents segments its audiences for entrepreneurship development using the following classifications:
Each of these audiences requires a different set of products and services. In addition, “entrepreneurship readiness” training, often offered to young people in school settings, stands separately from the above categories. The goal of this programming is to develop entrepreneurial skills that may be used now or in the future for a variety of goals. That mission differs from programming offered to entrepreneurs who have an existing business, or from programming to support start-up businesses intended to become an adult’s principle source of income.
Include real-life content and a format that fosters relevant skills.
The only place business concepts are experienced independently is in a textbook. In reality, cash flow affects risk-taking, which affects growth, which affects hiring decisions, which affect stress levels... you get the point.
Three recommendations to guarantee that real-life context is considered are:
Ensure that your instructional methodology uses simulation and other methods that provide entrepreneurs with the tools to understand the interconnections between concepts.
Employ adult-learning methodologies that keep content relevant to the entrepreneurs and offers them an engaging learning experience.
Expect and encourage entrepreneurs to vote with their feet: If they aren’t learning in-demand information, they shouldn’t spend time in your program.
Provide entrepreneurs with the skills to run a profitable business and a financially stable household.
Ensure programming builds personal and professional financial capability: the capacity to manage financial resources effectively based on knowledge, skills and access.
Remember that an entrepreneur's greatest challenge may have nothing to do with "the business."
Design your programming to address emotional issues and build a supportive ecosystem around the entrepreneur. Women in entrepreneurial businesses may have specific challenges that range from balancing childbearing and childcare with business demands, to lack of support from family members, to challenges that come from operating in business sectors that lack female role models.
Support entrepreneurs to "work on the business” not “in the business."
A common mistake entrepreneurship courses make is to establish an expectation that the entrepreneur himself or herself should and will be performing book-keeping, sales and marketing, operations, etc. Businesses can’t grow if the founder is doing every function.
Remember that time is money.
How long and in what time blocks is your audience best served by programming? Ensure you are offering training at times that suit your entrepreneur audience -- not only at times that may be convenient for the organization delivering the training.
Design entrepreneurship programs that do not start and end in the classroom.
Entrepreneurs of all levels require a package of services that often includes classroom-based instruction, networking, mentorship and access to financial services. It is incumbent on the entrepreneur to seek additional instruction, but the programmer must consciously provide that support.
Provide “just-in-time” information.
Entrepreneurs are most motivated to learn when they need information to solve a problem or seize an opportunity that’s in front of them. Consider how your programming can respond to this demand. Mentorship and participation in a network of similar entrepreneurs can help support this goal.
For those interested in learning more about entrepreneurship, join the Making Cents Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit on October 6 – 8th!
Useful links to Making Cents International supporting documents and educational material: