Seeds of entrepreneurship can be planted early but might not include a college education
It’s 10:30 p.m., and I’m exhausted. When I try to sleep, I find myself thinking about the next day’s commute into downtown Chicago.
Every day I wondered why I spent so much time and money to earn a college degree—so that I can get a job to pay for my college education.
This dilemma is what pushed me into entrepreneurship.
No matter how much time and effort I dedicated to my job, I felt it went unnoticed. Then one day, I decided that I wanted to work for myself, and employees would enjoy working with me.
I quickly realized my passion.
Creating a business from scratch is exciting. I liked that there was nobody to go to with questions. I fell in love with the process. Branding, logistics, graphic design, coding, finances, budgeting, networking, creating, managing, etc.
That’s what entrepreneurship is, mostly learning to mitigate risk, but simply do the things that most people are not willing to do.
I believe the combination of my athletic career, coaching, management experience, ownership experience, and depressing corporate experience, shaped me into a teacher with a unique perspective.
First, I don’t believe college is for everyone. I have many friends I went to college with who went into the trades, have zero student loan debt and earn six figures. I, on the other hand, graduated with six figures of student loan debt, hated my job and made nowhere near a six-figure income.
That’s the value I believe I bring to the classroom. I’ve learned it’s the pursuit of knowledge that drives me—I love learning.
When a position was offered to me at Hobart High School, it made sense for me.
Not only did the job give me the time I needed to continue running my own businesses, I had the opportunity to use my management/teaching skills to constantly create new things.
This is especially true in my entrepreneurship class and a class called engineering design and development, which is a Project Lead the Way course where the instructor is more of a facilitator.
The students spend an entire year identifying a problem and designing a solution—whether it is a product, service or system. At the end of the year, they leave the course with a testable prototype.
Students start reading and listening to understand rather than to respond. I try to keep students engaged by making real-world connections for what they are doing. I also create a competitive atmosphere—not only between groups within the class but by entering pitch competitions throughout the year.
My class recently entered the Innovate WithIN competition, a state initiative to inspire innovative thinking in Indiana’s students.
This year’s Innovate WithIN competition included more than 500 students on 150 teams from almost 100 Indiana high schools. I had 12 teams in the competition, including one that finished third place overall.
To date, my students have won about $7,500 in prize money and own a provisional patent on their product.
These students also signed up for three additional competitions with about $80,000 in prize money on the table. They also have been invited on an all-expenses paid trip to meet the CEO’s of Google and Dell and are pitching on a Shark Tank casting call.
It is my philosophy that we don’t give kids enough credit.
I’ve been teaching for a year, and I have students I would hire over professionals I have worked with in my career. The best I can do is point them in a direction and offer help along the way.
I don’t want students leaving my class after completing the same project that is being done at thousands of schools nationwide each year.
Their ideas and passions lead the curriculum, and they leave my classroom as marketable and interesting people.