Learning The Ropes
Wanted: Bright, hardworking kids
For: Business training
Reward: Possible entrepreneurial future
If you were to compose an ad for the youth business programs launched by KidsWay Inc. or Taller San Jose, it might very well run something like that. Take, for instance, Chamblee, Georgia-based KidsWay's youth-operated retail store, which sells environmental and educational products. "They're doing a great job," says KidsWay chair and CEO Steve Morris of the eight high school students who've run the company's Alpharetta, Georgia, store since it opened last fall. "We put them in there and basically said `Figure it out.' And they did."
As the self-proclaimed first store in the country to be run soley by kids, the enterprise follows a school-to-work curriculum developed by KidsWay. Observes Morris, "Kids would rather learn by doing."
That same philosophy is reflected in Santa Ana, California-based Taller San Jose's The Benchmakers program. A little more than a year old, The Benchmakers introduces Latino youths with troubled backgrounds to bench-crafting and business basics. "We want [participants] to begin to understand all the elements that go into [business]," says program co-founder Eileen McNerney. "We're not just teaching them how to make quality benches."
Will any of these workers go on to become entrepreneurs? McNerney, who devised the program with architect Dominic Walsh, thinks it's quite possible. "These young people are quite bright," she says. "They just didn't have much opportunity or mentoring [growing up]." Now they--and the KidsWay teens--are taking care of business their way.
KidsWay Inc., 5589 Peachtree Rd., Chamblee, GA 30341, (888) KIDS-WAY
Taller San Jose, 801 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701-3423, (714) 543-5105, ext. 106.