by Tristan Turner
Morinville Community High School is now home to a recently developed program to enable young entrepreneurs looking to develop small businesses in or around the community. The Biz Kids program is operated by the Community Futures Tawatinaw Region organization, and is taught as an extra-curricular class to any interested high school students in Athabasca, Westlock and Morinville. Students enrolled in the program work to develop a business strategy tailored to their interests, and develop a viable small business plan by learning about proper bookkeeping, business management, licensing / registration and product development. The program closes at the end of this school year. At that time students will have the opportunity to claim a loan of up to $300 from the Community Futures organization from a pool of made available from donations to the Biz Kids program.
Benita Pedersen, Biz Kids instructor and a Business Analyst/Project Coordinator for Community Futures, said the goal of the Biz Kids program is to inspire teenagers to develop businesses of their own. “We want to plant a seed into the minds of today’s youth, saying that they too can become entrepreneurs and run businesses for themselves,” she said. “The earlier we plant that seed, the more likely they are to become entrepreneurs later in life.”
Afternoon Biz Kids classes, which take place at the school at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesdays, are not always as well attended as Pedersen would like to see. Recent classes have had as few as one student show up. Regardless of how many students take the program, Pedersen will continue to instruct whoever is interested in the after-school class. “I’m hoping to get at least one student out of this group that I’ve had starting a business, or at least having business experience this summer,” she said.
Pedersen sees the program benefiting not only the students that take the class but also th community in which they live. “Students are gaining skills and knowledge that they wouldn’t gain in a regular classroom and they have access to capital – that three hundred dollar loan – that they wouldn’t get through school,” she said. “So this program gives them an opportunity to have a genuine business experience. Entrepreneurs fuel this economy, and I feel that the younger the people are when we reach them and teach them about entrepreneurship, the more likely they are to consider entrepreneurship in the future.”
The Community Futures Tawatinaw Region organization and the Biz Kids program (excluding loans to enrolled students) are funded by grants from Western Economic Diversification Canada, a federal department whose goal is to build stronger businesses in ‘diverse industries’ in Western Canada.
Anyone interested in donating to the Biz Kids program, or in requesting more information about what the initiative offers, can call the Community Futures Tawtinaw Region offices at 1-888-349-2903 or visit their website at tawatinaw.albertacf.com.