Greene: Youth Entrepreneurship

Jun 28, 2017

When people tell me they’d love to live in Vermont, I jokingly ask if they enjoy roof raking, then add that they might need to bring their own jobs with them.

But Cairn Cross, co-founder of the venture capital fund Fresh Tracks Capital LLP, says those making a deliberate choice to come here are perhaps a little more risk tolerant than most, and more open to starting their own businesses. After all, Vermont’s already hosted many innovative thriving start-ups. Ben and Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Green Mountain Coffee come to mind.

At the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont, (GIV), motivated high-schoolers explore new subjects in workshops at college campuses across the state. That includes an entrepreneurship institute at Vermont Technical College this week where according to Karen Taylor Mitchell, GIV Executive Director, students can explore their big ideas, and “learn about all aspects of running a business: finances, marketing, even human resources. “Students tour start-ups” she adds, “and work on pitching their business ideas.”

She thinks the institute would be larger if more young people knew what entrepreneurship is - and she makes it a habit to ask prospective students if they’d like to start a business someday, and if making a difference in the world is important to them.

When Cairn Cross came to the entrepreneurship institute last year, he appreciated how in-depth the GIV workshops were - on par with many college and even MBA programs. He was impressed enough to welcome two high school groups to participate in Fresh Track’s Road Pitch, where entrepreneurs, investors and advisors travel in a group by motorcycle to ten towns across the state to hear pitches for new ventures.

This week, twenty-two Vermont students are engaged an in-depth exploration of what it takes to start a thriving business. They’ve formed teams, come up with products, and created Business Model Canvases to design how their dream companies will look – both inside and out.

Zavier Henderson is making a platform for the buying, selling and sharing of cell cultures.

Others are planning how to market a variety of projects, from a glow-in the dark, heated ice cream scoop to a subscription service for locally sourced foods. And they’re working toward a final pitch session.

Student Miranda Mishaan sums it up with a smile: “It’s about how to be a success.”