Thursday, August 21, 2008

Entrepreneurship is the new old thing

Ever wonder how our local institutions got their start? Same way Ford and Microsoft and others began: an idea, a little money and a lot of hard work.

Whether they are serving pulled pork or pulling teeth, the people who start uniquely local business all fall into the same category. They are all entrepreneurs.

We wouldn't have Main Streets and shopping centers and corner grocers with this breed of people who - despite failure and other risks - devoted their lives to their business ventures.

Individually, these businesses may not have a tremendous impact. Collectively, they have the power to influence the local and regional economy by providing goods and services and jobs to an area.

A century ago - heck, probably not even a generation ago - there was little formal training for entrepreneurs. The business owners attended the School of Life to prepare them for their venture.

That's changing for the next wave of entrepreneurs who hope to tackle bigger and more complex new business opportunities.

Purdue Research Park recently finished it's second annual Entrepreneurship Academy for high school students. In many cases these students are high achievers in science and technology. The academy introduces these youth to a product already developed by PRC firms.

In less than one week, the teams of four or five students must research the product and prepare a pitch to investors, which are comprised of business leaders who judge the presentations while peppering the students with tough questions.

The academy is no mere summer week camp. One of its goals is to equip today's bright high school students with the tools they'll need if they choose to be entrepreneurs.

Is there a Bill Gates or Henry Ford among them? Who knows? But judging by students' responses following the week-long introduction to entrepreneurship, the seed has been planted. We'll see what grows from that.

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