When Jesse and Joziah Council, then 11 and 12, first entered Biz Camp sponsored by Pittsburgh's Entrepreneuring Youth
group, EY's Cathy Blanchard remembers their motivation:
"The only reason they went to the first camp was that they were going to get paid," she says.
"And then the entrepreneurial spirit latched onto us," says Jesse, laughing. After three years of camp -- and that initial camp investment of $50 in materials to help the Council brothers with their idea of making a soothing skin cream for arthritis sufferers -- the brothers are winners. Their idea, which has now morphed into a line of all-natural products, won them first place in the local Youth Entrepreneur Regional Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Tippins Foundation. They and second-place winner Lisa Huff, 15, will journey to New York City to compete for a $25,000 prize in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship's 2012 national competition in October. Last year's Tippins winner made it to the semi-final round.
So how do teens turn into entrepreneurs?
Jesse and Joziah's great-uncle was their first inspiration. He had arthritis and was searching for a natural way to relieve the pain. The brothers took training from a local herbalist to make their skin cream. They even made their own commercial
, starring themselves with local actors.
"When they see an African-American running a business, educated, believing in ourselves and our future," says Joziah about his fellow Beaver Area High School students, "it actually gets
them excited and wanting to do something with their lives as well."
The first product the brothers hope to manufacturer is an all-natural germ-killing room spray from mint, rose and other essential oils. "Mass production is one of the feats we have to accomplish," cautions Joziah.
Empowering Youth teaches kids the rudiments of entrepreneurship at the Biz Camp cosponsored by the Franklin Center of Beaver County in Aliquippa. However, says Jesse, "their goal isn't to teach you how to make a business and get it running but so you'll have that mindset."
The entrepreneurial mindset has also captured Lisa Huff, a Christian Hope Academy student in Aliquippa whose Decadent Delight business involves cooking up Oreo Bonbons (Oreos and cream cheese dipped in white chocolate). Hers will be a catering business, although she has had success selling small packages of Bonbons at the mall.
Entrepreneuring Youth, she says, " has definitely given me people skills and marketing skills," helping her gain confidence after preparing numerous business presentations and participating in other business-plan competitions.
"I have big hopes for Decadent Delights," she says. "In New York, we will knock it out of the park and beat Jesse and Joziah." Plus, she adds, "Who doesn't like to eat sweets?"
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Jesse and Joziah Council; Lisa Huff; Cathy Blanchard, Entrepreneuring Youth