How Entrepreneurship Education Can Keep Kids in School
By: Jessica Kaufman
July 20th 2015
Students today have lost interest in traditional educational approaches. The numbers prove it: 1 in 3 high school students in the United States drop out; that’s 7,000 students a day. 50% of dropouts are African American, Latino, or Native American. 81% of dropouts say they would have stayed in school if it was relevant to their lives. Entrepreneurial education is an engaging and real world alternative that may just be the academic lure students need to stay in school.
The United States Department of Labor and the Office of Disability Employment Policy cited entrepreneurship education as a way to improve academic performance, school attendance, job readiness, and enhance money, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Across the country, organizations like MicroSociety and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship provide information and simulations for interested students. One organization, however, is taking a different approach.
Truepreneurs is a for profit company with a program that allows students to design and sell their own t-shirts to benefit their school or a local nonprofit. Through twelve progressions, students learn what it means to be an entrepreneur by working with real clients and pitching their own product. Students are expected to sell at least twelve t-shirts, which are sold online and in person, but many have sold much more, raising near $1400. The program is also aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Rhode Island education and has served 240 students.
Brandon Monti started the company while attending Johnson and Wales University in Providence. The idea for Truepreneurs came from a previous dark time in Brandon’s life. He was born with tick syndrome and struggled through school as he grew isolated from family, friends, and even himself. Near his breaking point, Brandon started his own clothing company, Tru Monti, as a creative outlet for his emotions. Truepreneurs evolved as a way to help other kids who felt disenfranchised and give them creative freedom and empowerment through entrepreneurship.
Brandon says, “Instead of my story ending, what if it could just begin? There are so many youth going through a difficult time in their life, and if you create a program that is creative they begin to open up.” Entrepreneurship education is a platform that engages students to not only think strategically, but to problem solve, take risks, and learn about the outcomes.
While at Johnson and Wales, Brandon won the Shark Fest competition at the Johnson and Wales Entrepreneurship Center.Kelly Ramirez, CEO of Social Enterprise Greenhouse, was a judge. A relationship evolved and Kelly was able to connect Brandon with a knowledgeable and supportive mentor. Brandon says, “It was giving me that initial connection, and not only that, but a sustained friendship that allowed my business to flourish.”
Today, Brandon uses the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Hub and continues to work with the organization. As he says, “Thanks to Social Enterprise Greenhouse and other things, I feel like the social ventures have a good ecosystem here, and a good place to come to and feed off each other and that’s a unique thing Providence has.”
Trueprenuers has worked with The Samaritans of Rhode Island, Food 4 Good (a Social Enterprise Greenhouse Hub recipient and 2015 Accelerator graduate), Riverezdge Arts (read more here), and the Eliminate Project, to list a few. This fall they will be partnering with Chubby Chico Charms, a jewelry company started and run in North Providence that reaches global markets.
Truepreneurs is looking forward to a partnership with Chubby Chico Charms. Students in the Truepreneurs program will have the opportunity to make jewelry with the Chubby Chico Charms brand and display their products on the company’s website, all while raising money for their school or a local non-profit.
To fellow entrepreneurs, Brandon advises, “Use your story. Everyone has a story, so don’t be afraid to use it. For me, what has opened a lot of doors is I’m not afraid to talk about my past. I believe that the most successful people use their story to inspire others.” Brandon’s just getting started with Truepreneurs. His goal is to teach one million students entrepreneurship in order to develop the next generation of educated and enterprising individuals.
Here is Brandon’s TEDx talk from 2013 at the beginning of Truepreneurs:
Check out his orientation video for new participants. We think you’ll agree that he gets kids excited about social enterprise:
Student Venture Intern
Jessica Kaufman is the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Student Venture Intern for Summer 2015. She is working under the Social Enterprise Greenhouse University Initiative, which is funded through the Blackstone Charitable Foundation Innovation Grant to retain students and recent graduates in Rhode Island through enabling them to work on and in social enterprises. Her work centers around documenting the success stories of student and recent graduate social ventures. Learn more about Jessica here.