Business-Minded Youngsters Visit UM to Learn the Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success

By UM News

Business-Minded Youngsters Visit UM to Learn the Secrets to Entrepreneurial Success

By UM News
Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club ‘Grow Your Own Business Challenge’ kicked off at the University of Miami on Monday with a launch event attended by more than 150 elementary and middle school students.

Jacki Stanley was only 12 years old when her father told her about the dream he had in which someone told him to start a new line of sneakers for girls. “We were vacationing in San Francisco,” Stanley recalled, “and one day at breakfast, Dad starts telling us about his dream and drawing these incredible pictures of shoes.”

It wouldn’t be until Stanley’s junior year at the University of Miami that she would partner with her father in launching a brand of shoes that encourages girls to be creative. Today, colorful Bobbi-Toads sneakers are sold with toes embossed on their white toecaps, allowing the wearer to embellish them with nail polish, clean them off the next day, and start all over again with any design they choose.

But just imagine if Stanley had been able to start Bobbi-Toads back when her father first had his dream. “We knew we wanted to do it,” she said. “We just didn’t know anything about the shoe industry.”

The more than 150 elementary and middle school students who visited UM’s Coral Gables campus on Monday won’t find themselves without the support network they need to start new business ventures. The budding group of entrepreneurs participated in the national launch of Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club “Grow Your Own Business Challenge,” a Fairholme Foundation-sponsored program and competition that teaches kids about good financial habits and entrepreneurship and asks them to come up with ideas for new businesses.

“We hope it inspires the next generation,” said Will Silverman, director of UM’s entrepreneurial resource center, The Launch Pad, which is partnering on the initiative with the School of Education and Human Development and the organization By Kids for Kids. “The last year this competition ran there were over 4,000 entries for business ideas from children aged 7 to 14. Our goal is to help increase that, because realistically there’s nothing stopping these kids from actually starting and running businesses as young as they are.”

At Monday’s launch event, held at the Student Activities Center, youngsters got plenty of inspiration from successful entrepreneurs like Stanley, who were on-site to give advice and answer questions.

“It was surprising to me how many of them already have such high aspirations at such a young age,” said Stanley, who graduated with a marketing degree from UM’s School of Business Administration in 2012 and got assistance through The Launch Pad’s Venture Coaching Program to start Bobbi-Toads.

After noticing some of UM graduate student Amanda Posey’s metal pencils, one of the youngsters in attendance even came up with an idea for a company that would manufacture special grips to make writing instruments easier to hold and use.

“This event definitely makes a difference,” said Posey, who gave presentations about her business, Fit Kids Day, which exposes youngsters to different sports in an effort to reduce obesity and diabetes rates. “It teaches skills they need to be successful.”

Jake Johnson, winner of last year’s “Grow Your Own Business Challenge,” and Norman Goldstein, CEO of By Kids for Kids, also spoke to students, who came from Ponce Middle School, South Miami K-8, and Bel-Aire Elementary.

With the national “Grow Your Own Business Challenge” now underway, five youngsters and three groups will be selected as finalists to present their ideas to Buffett and a panel of judges next May in Omaha, Nebraska, with one grand prize-winning individual and a team each receiving a $5,000 award.

The Launch Pad staff will fly staff to the finals in Omaha to mentor finalists and give them, said Silverman, “concrete advice on how to turn their ideas into reality.”