Young entrepreneurs get their start at Wisconsin's technical colleges

By Susan Pohorski

Is your child a natural entrepreneur? Does she sell more Girl Scout cookies than other girls her age? Has he cornered the market on lawn mowing in your neighborhood?

A young man I know established a coffee roasting business when he was 13 years old. He’s moved on to selling his photography on the Internet.

Carter Drake took neighborhood lawn mowing to a higher level with his business, Dreamscape Landscaping. This Fort Atkinson teen won the 2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year sponsored by Ernst and Young, Junior Achievement and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

He offers thatching, edging, and landscaping projects with retaining wall rock. The business now includes snow removal services in the winter months and Carter has plans to expand with more equipment and services.

A recent survey of teens conducted by Northeastern University found more than 60 percent of responders said they want to learn about entrepreneurship in college. Nearly half indicated they expect to be their own bosses in the future.

Where should young entrepreneurs gain the skills necessary to start, manage and grow their businesses? In addition to occupational skills, students can gain entrepreneurial skills through various technical college courses, certificate, and diploma and degree programs.

In 2009, iSupply was a small electronics accessories store in a Green Bay mall. Owner Tom Mittelsteadt noticed several customers asking if they could repair an iPhone ™.

“We fixed the customer’s iPhone, and came up with an entirely new business model,” Mittelstead recalled.

Mittelsteadt and his partner Sam Warpinski knew they had a good idea, but it needed professional direction and support. They turned to Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center Business Model Design Workshop.

Man sitting in wheelchair next to man repairing iPhone

 “The training gave us the opportunity to literally map out and visualize our business plan,” he said. A week later, he began the eight-week E-seed Express™ program.

“It was incredible. They brought in speakers for every class, and each one was a professional in the areas we needed to learn more about,” he says. “We received real-time feedback, plus great networking connections thanks to the Venture Center.”

Today, iSupply has 15 employees in three Green Bay locations and one in Appleton. In addition to offering same-day repair for Apple and Samsung mobile products, iSupply provides expert service for PCs and Macs™, Xboxes™, PlayStations™, and Wii™gaming systems. The company also established a business division to serve area businesses and non-profit organizations.

If your child seems like a future business owner, steer him or her to your local technical college.

 

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