Last year, during the first week of October, 300 high school students from across the state gathered in the Pioneer Room at JUMP in downtown Boise. Their teachers brought them in buses and vans to attend the Youth Track, part of Boise Entrepreneur Week. They spent a day with their peers learning from entrepreneurs like Adam Stock, the winner of BEW’s 2021 Pitch Competition. Parker Kane, a motivational speaker and beatboxer, inspired them to dream big and follow their passions. Faisal Shah, serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Tracer, gave them an inside look at what starting their first business will be like. Before they got back on their buses, the College of Western Idaho presented them with a challenge. They challenged those students to come up with an innovative solution to a problem they’re facing. According to CWI, 65% of Idaho seniors don’t go to college after graduation, and they want to change that. Dan Garrity of CWI asked them, “given that the College of Western Idaho is committed to providing an affordable and accessible education to the future global workforce, how can we let the people who need us the most know how to get to us?” With this problem statement, the 2023 Youth Innovation Challenge began.
The challenge was open to all Idaho high school students. Teams of students worked on the problem and sent in their solutions, which were judged and ranked by a panel of judges made up of local business leaders. A few weeks ago, Nathan Moorefield and William Pooser from Boise High School were announced as the winners of the challenge. They received $3,000 in cash and earned another $1,000 for their high school. Nathan came down to Trailhead to accept the check on behalf of his team and talked a little bit about their solution. “I knew that we had to think of something that was out of the box, that was still feasible and still possible. I knew we had to find the perfect mix between those two things. If it’s too feasible, it’s kind of obvious and not very innovative. But if it’s too innovative, you don’t want to end up with some pie in the sky idea that obviously isn’t going to happen.” Their solution to CWI’s problem involved a multi-tiered approach to connecting with high school seniors. They researched the problem, provided credible sources for their facts, and came up with a solution that was innovative and achievable. Nathan and William’s solution scored the highest with the judges, beating out 56 other challenge submissions.
Nathan and William are new to entrepreneurship, but thanks to Boise High’s entrepreneurial programming, weren’t completely in the dark. Chad Church teaches personal finance, business, law and ethics, and entrepreneurship at Boise High. He acted as a mentor to Nathan and William as they came up with their solution. The entrepreneurship program at Boise High has been a class option for students for almost a decade. “I took it over two years ago and revamped the way it was being taught. I looked at what colleges would want from business minded students as well as what the spirit of entrepreneurship is, then tried to instill and encourage that in students,” Chad said.
The class starts with students creating a business that could feasibly be started for under $10,000. They put together a business plan, a product, and work on every aspect of what goes into starting a business. At the end of class, students pitch their business plans to actual investors, who tell them whether or not they would invest in their idea. While most of these businesses don’t actually get launched, Chad said, “I have had three students create businesses while actually in the class, and two that are still functioning.” The most important advice that he shares with students is “do not be afraid to ask for help. Ever. Do not be afraid to hear the word no. You should hear that. Accept that a lack of success is an opportunity for growth.”
The prize money attached to the Youth Innovation Challenge, both the $3,000 earned by Nathan and William and the $1,000 that Boise High was awarded, was made possible by the College of Western Idaho. CWI sponsored the Youth Track at Boise Entrepreneur Week and the Youth Innovation Challenge. Audrey Eldridge, the Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at CWI, presented the check to the winning team at Trailhead. She said “when we sponsor events, we really like to feel like our investment either adds value to the event or provides an opportunity to [students] that wouldn’t be available otherwise.” The Youth Innovation Challenge isn’t their only investment in young entrepreneurs. This fall, CWI is launching their own Entrepreneur Lab. The center will provide resources and guidance for CWI students that want to spend time outside of class learning more about entrepreneurship. In addition to resources, the center will feature a ten week accelerator program for CWI students who are starting their businesses right now. Kenton Lee is the new Director of the Entrepreneur Lab at CWI. “Our mission is to help CWI students and take them as far as they want to go on their entrepreneurial journey. We’re really excited to help them apply what they’re learning in the classroom.”
The Youth Innovation Challenge and the Youth Track at Boise Entrepreneur Week are intended to inspire high school students to solve real world problems, and empower them with tools and best practices, as well as an entrepreneurial mindset. “An entrepreneurial mindset begins at a young age; you either learn to embrace problems and solve them, or to accept and avoid them. We want to make sure to invest in Idaho’s youth and prepare them for their future – preferably one that takes place here in our beautiful state,” said Tiam Rastegar, Executive Director and CEO of Trailhead. “The Youth Innovation Challenge and the lessons taught at Boise Entrepreneur Week together plant the seeds of the entrepreneurial mindset. Whether those students end up starting a business or gain employment, this program helps develop the next generation of business leaders. We want to see these kids do great things for Idaho.”
Find out more…
The Youth Innovation Challenge and Boise Entrepreneur Week are programs of Trailhead.
To find out more about Trailhead, visit https://trailheadboise.org/
To find out more about Boise Entrepreneur Week, visit https://www.boiseentrepreneurweek.org/
To find out more about CWI and enrollment, visit https://cwi.edu/
Written by Peter Wolsborn. A Lavender Copy creation.