This Friday, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition held its annual Media and Telecommunications Symposium in Washington, DC. The first half of the Symposium included a separate session for kids and young adults that focused on teaching children about entrepreneurship. The session was hosted by International Business Kids (IBK) Foundation Executive Director, Endura Govan.
The International Business Kids Foundation was started by Govan’s son, Alexander, who had a dream at the tender age of four about starting a business. Three years later, he started his first nonprofit, “B.A.D. (Bold, Ambitious, and Determined) Kids,” to teach children how to start and run their own businesses.
A thoughtful and insightful child, Alex wanted the “B.A.D.” acronym to change the negative connotation associated with a word these at-risk youth heard often to describe themselves. Before he died of cancer at the age of ten, Alexander realized his dream of starting the foundation and creating a legacy of efforts to teach at-risk youth how to create and run businesses that benefit their communities.
Endura Govan took up the helm of her son’s inspirational organization. During its twenty year tenure, the program has helped thousands of young children become entrepreneurs and empowered children that were not given many chances to have an opportunity to succeed..
“Several thousand youth have taken our training courses since 1996. We serve over 2,500 youth a year through our various training components,” Govan says, adding, “We are currently in 50 cities. Thanks to technology we will expand rapidly via web based training classes from now through December 2010 to offer training in 200 cities.”
The foundation’s goal for 2010 is to reach 10,000 new children and help them start 1,000 new business ventures. From the looks of the young, excited entrepreneurs at the Rainbow PUSH Symposium, the foundation is well on its way to achieving its goal.
One of the young entrepreneurs, Odency Johnson, sold ties to Symposium attendees. Currently 20 years old, Johnson started his “Ties to a Cause” organization at the age of ten and uses income from Ties to a Cause and a part-time job to cover his tuition at Bowie State and help his father care for his siblings.
Another young entrepreneur, DeAnna “Cookie” Mayo, advertised her company, “My Sweet Tooth.” DeAnna’s website offers consumers a choice of healthy cookies that come in sugar-free, gluten free, nut free, and dairy free varieties. DeAnna developed the site to help others, like her, who have dietary restrictions or suffer from diabetes or obesity, to enjoy healthy and tasty alternatives. With help from IBK, DeAnna has succeeded.
“The most inspiring aspect of our program is that any youth regardless of background, parents’ income status or lack thereof, can learn how to discover their passion,” says Govan. “They can tap into their purpose and learn how to develop positive money management principles at early ages.”
The IBK entrepreneurship session at Rainbow PUSH’s Symposium was a success with the group of high school students who attended the program.
Rapper Lil Zane connected with the children through Skype to stress the importance of leadership, building confidence and self-esteem, and expressing his own desire to work with schools. Lil Zane expressed his pride in the students for attending this life-changing event and promised to visit their schools to perform a holiday concert and speak more on the importance of leadership.
According to Govan, there’s a lot adults can do to help students in the International Business Kids Foundation:
- Be a customer – Purchase items from IBK students to provide them with income;
- Be a source of referral – Refer both customers and places for business kids to sell products to the public by office showcase, group sales, and one-on-one;
- Adopt A Business Kid – Provide funding for students to enroll in IBK training courses;
- Be a donor – Underwrite IBK summer camps and weekend conferences; and
- Be a mentor – Share life lessons that can help IBK students develop personal skills.
The International Business Kids Foundation – from its roots, to its reach, to its goals for the future – is more than an inspiration. It has turned at-risk youths into responsible entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs have then gone on to college, helped support their families, and brought their knowledge and skills back into their communities.
As Govan put it, “IBK students have used their businesses to create a positive life.”
Marcella Gadson is the Editor in Chief of the Broadband and Social Justice Blog and Director of Communications at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC).