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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

African-American students study up on entrepreneurship

Afi-Odelia Scruggs Mar 5, 2014
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Teens know that getting a job is becoming tougher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 26 percent of them are employed, and just 16 percent of African American youngsters have jobs.

That might explain why African Americans kids are looking into entrepreneurship. Gallup recently found half of minority youngsters want to start businesses.

In East Cleveland, Ohio, high school senior Kevin Alexander already has business on his mind. His problem is how to get more customers for the company he’s launched.

“We own a steam cleaning business,” Alexander says. “The business is run successfully by two entrepreneurs: myself as CEO, and a couple friends that I’ve hired to take care of the business while I’m out with the marching band.”

Alexander is learning how to run his company at Shaw High School, where he’s enrolled in a business management course. Here, students learn basic concepts like “market research” and “cost-benefit analyses.” Teacher Quelina Jordan says those skills separate teens who are serious entrepreneurs from their friends who have a side hustle.

“You’ll find lots of students who will sell candy in class or do hair,” Jordan says. “They’ll find lots of ways to make money.”

But serious business owners learn to account for the money they make.

“Of course, the challenge is things that are really important to business in terms of record keeping and really tracking and knowing what you’re doing,” says Jordan.

Classes like Quelina Jordan’s are especially important for minority students. They’re more interested in being their own boss than non-minorities.

But it’s hard to turn that passion into productivity.

“Currently I believe there are fewer work opportunities for teenagers than ever,” says Carol Rivchun, head of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. It’s a non-profit that teaches kids to get jobs and start businesses.

“Companies aren’t hiring,” Rivchun says. “There aren’t as many summer jobs as there used to be. This is really not good, because we have found that young people that have a work experience when they’re 16 or 17 are far more likely to succeed in a job later on.”

Kevin Alexander, the high school entrepreneur, doesn’t plan to work for anyone but himself. If he does look for an outside job, what’s he’s learned will make him as marketable as his steam-cleaning service.

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