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Teen Spirit

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Since entrepreneur Don Herman started speaking at Southern California-area high schools nearly three years ago, the students just haven't been the same.

It seems the founder of the Southern California Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative has made quite an impression in So Cal--so much so that many of the students he's spoken to are now finding creative ways to turn their interests into profitable ventures.

That's just what Herman hopes they'll do after hearing his presentation--that is, if they've got the will and the way to make it happen. Says the 35-year-old, "I'm trying to get them to look at an alternative to working for someone else for the rest of their lives."

By the time Herman wraps up a presentation, in which he'll typically point to entrepreneurs like Michael Dell who started businesses in their teens, he's sparked the interest of at least half a dozen kids looking to sell their wares, wash windows or design Web pages. Herman makes himself available to these students for advice and, in some cases, start-up loans of up to $1,000.

Herman is careful, though, to tell the budding entrepreneurs to do what he did two years ago before starting his Costa Mesa, California, Taste Budz Candy cart business, which funds the nonprofit Southern California Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative: scope their target market and carefully research the competition, then proceed with caution.

"I see myself as a catalyst," says Herman, who also holds conferences periodically to teach teens business basics and hopes to get a small-business club started on each campus. "I can give them those first ideas about where to go to get more information, but then it's up to them and their determination to make it happen."

For additional information about the Southern California Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and the words "Info List" to P.O. Box 2364, Newport Beach, CA 92659.

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Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Teen Spirit.

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