K12 Dive: When teaching entrepreneurship, where should educators start?

Asking students to find opportunities to identify and solve problems that interest them is the best entry point, says one nonprofit leader.

Dive Brief:

  • Teaching students how to create, design and run their own businesses is one way educators can help to instill financial literacy and business skills, said Corey Mohn, president and executive director of the CAPS Network, a nonprofit that helps high school students build professional skills before they graduate.
  • Mohn said educators can encourage students to develop this mindset by asking what problems they see in the world around them — and how they would fix them. Some pupils learn through extracurricular opportunities like Girl Scouts, while others may have sponsorship through their schools.
  • “Once students have identified a challenge, they can research existing solutions to see where a gap lies,” Mohn said. “From there, it’s time to come up with some possible solutions and test them with basic prototypes, as well as surveying peers to see if the idea has an audience or market.”

Dive Insight:

According to Mohn, even young students can learn entrepreneurship skills. Young children are already quite “creative and innovative,” he said.

A good way to strengthen and support these skills would be for schools to not only allow students to create a potential product — but also help them come up with ways to present or even sell these ideas or services, he said.

“To fully maximize the opportunities for young children to build entrepreneurial muscle, provide them multiple times during the school year to launch a ‘storefront’ around their own creations,” Mohn said.

Before students develop businesses, it’s key that educators consider teaching lessons on financial skills, said Dan LaSalle, executive director of the Niche Clinic, a financial literacy education website. LaSalle said learning these basics is like learning how to ride a bike: You want to start with some training wheels.

“Basic financial literacy is a must,” he said. “Unless students know what [the] cost of goods sold is, or the difference between revenue and profit, then their business will fail as soon as they run out of capital.”

And whether students will grow into the next successful entrepreneur like Mark Cuban or follow a different path, championing their interests will help them develop confidence in themselves and their ideas — wherever that takes them next.

“Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is incredibly important for young people, and providing a supportive culture inside the school setting gives a much-needed boost and encouragement for students to lean into their natural state of curiosity,” says Mohn. “The mindset should be encouraged for all students, regardless of whether or not they want to start or grow their own business in the future.”


The original article by Lauren Barack, published by K12 Dive, can be found here.