Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

University helps children learn business skills

The Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration and the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce are partnering up to host the Young Entrepreneurship Academy, a course teaching middle and high school students how to launch a successful business.

The Young Entrepreneurship Academy hopes to foster the ideals of entrepreneurship and innovation in young children in the Tuscaloosa community, as students work in close cooperation with local business leaders, Loo Whitfield, director of education and workforce development at the Chamber of Commerce, said.

“The course is seven months long starting in November and meeting once a week for three hours in The University of Alabama’s AIME building,” Whitfield said. “We began recruiting students in October, and this year there will be 12 students participating, representing both city and county public schools.”

Two business professors on campus, David Ford and Rob Morgan, played vital roles in helping the program take off logistically, Whitfield said.

Ford, who has personal experience with running entrepreneur camps at the University, helped arrange speakers and field trips for the program.

“I have run a successful Entrepreneur Camp on campus for high school juniors for five years, and this seemed like a natural extension and refinement of that camp,” Ford said. “I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than helping young people envision the opportunities and rewards of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.”

Ford also said the dean of the business school, Michael Hardin, provided financial resources to assist with getting the camp off the ground in the first year.

Morgan, whose daughter is a participant this year, said he was eager to contribute because he felt nothing represents the positive power of capitalism more than entrepreneurs. He arranged for the program to be held in the AIME building.

“I have a lot of admiration for the person who has the work ethic, passion and backbone to start up their own business,” Morgan said. “I think it’s great that the young people in our community have an opportunity to get some exposure to that in such a well-designed program.”

The Young Entrepreneurship Academy was originally founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester and is now in 23 different states with 59 locations.

The course has a set curriculum developed for each different location to use to teach the program. It roots the students’ education in business theory, Gayle Jagel, the CEO and founder of Young Entrepreneurship Academy, said.

“We teach young people how to make a job, not just take a job,” Jagel said. “The program identifies a student’s passions and what they’re good at and sees how that can intersect with a business plan.”

Whitfield explained the program ends with students applying for a business license in April and participating in an event called Investor’s Panel.

“There will be local business men and women at the Investor’s Panel who will invest their actual money to help launch the students’ business and marketing ideas,” Whitfield said. “The students will have six minutes to pitch their business plan in hopes of receiving some funding.”

This event has been a part of the program since it first launched, Jagel said.

“It was just like Shark Tank met the Apprentice met American Idol,” she said. “I remember one child said, ‘My invention will change the world.’”

Jagel said the Young Entrepreneur Academy, which costs $395 per student, is a nonprofit organization and credits much of its success and affordability to donations from national and local Chambers of Commerce.

“The United States Chamber of Commerce said ‘We love what you’re doing, so what if we provide funding for local chambers to run programs in local areas,’” Jagel said. “That funding really helps so the students can afford to take this fabulous class for far less than it actually costs.”


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