A junior high school teacher is looking to local merchants to give youth invaluable knowledge that could mean big business for the Foothills.
Leigh Bretzlaff, an enterprise and innovation teacher at Oilfields High School, aims to duplicate the youth entrepreneurship program Biz Kid$, but to make the program a success he needs merchants in Black Diamond and Turner Valley to be mentors.
Biz Kid$ is a province-wide initiative that teaches youth ages 10 to 16 about money and how to run their own business in an effort to promote youth entrepreneurism in their communities.
“We are really at the infancy stages,” said Bretzlaff. “Right now we just want to see if our businesses would be on board. We’re not sure what the right number of businesses is to try to make it work. We’re just gauging interest to see if this is something we can bring to our kids.”
Bretzlaff said he sees great potential for the Biz Kid$ program, where students will learn business plan development, business naming, business types and structures, as well as market research, advertising, financing and customer service. They are paired with a merchant who will mentor them through their own business development.
“Students are paired up with a mentor to discuss business and ask questions about their own small business venture,” he said. “It’s teaching kids to take the risk, if that’s something they are interested in doing, and give them some knowledge around that and confidence on how to move forward. I thought it would be a great idea for the kids.”
Community Futures business analyst Megan Watts said the organization would facilitate the business planning and allow the young entrepreneurs to apply for financing to start up their businesses.
“As soon as we can get those mentors, we are going to teach these youth to write their business plan, budget and do their financials so they know the steps on how to understand their business,” she said. “Once the business plans are done we will do what we can to provide financing for them so they can build their own credit and their own financial responsibility.”
In addition to providing youth with invaluable information to start their own business, Biz Kid$ also provides a potential source for economic growth for the Foothills’ small communities, said Watts.
“A lot of youth move to the city,” she said. “We have all these outlying communities, but the youth leave town and either come back after they’ve had families or when it’s time to slow their lives down. Hopefully, we can hang on to a few that are running great businesses. It keeps our small communities from dwindling.”
Biz Kid$ also gives youth something they don’t typically get to experience, the opportunity to be an integral part of their community, said Watts.
“When you’re a part of your community you are going to be more responsible for what’s there in your community,” she said. “You are going to be more prideful and aware of everything in their surroundings and hopefully they are going to be protective of it.”
Another partner in implementing Biz Kid$ in the area is Suzan Nagel, coordinator with Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) in Black Diamond.
Nagel said she sees potential for the program in her community.
“Some of the expected outcomes for this program include the development of relationships with adults in the community for the youth, an increase in self-esteem and confidence and the development of problem solving and life skills,” she said. “Of course, the way that we expect that to come out is the program teaches youth about the importance of community involvement in relation to learning and growing.
“It shows them how to create opportunities for themselves, but also with an awareness of how the local business community creates opportunities collectively and how they can be part of that.”
Nagel sees Biz Kids creating a culture of cooperation in the community, which also benefits the business community.
“The business owners get an opportunity to see how the youth look at things,” she said. “They get the perspective of the youth and how they view what’s important to their community. There’s also an opportunity as they go through this for both the youth and business community as they explore opportunities to have a better understanding of how they contribute and how they fill the service gaps.
“The mentoring component of the program, combined with the workshop, is expected to help kids learn the importance of follow through and following the necessary small steps in between in order to achieve the results they desire.”