b.side, an entrepreneurship program for ypsilanti-area kids, gets launched

Jordan Miller, the intrepid girl reporter who brought news of the Ypsipanty to the breakfast table of America, has a new piece up on the “Ann Arbor News” website that I thought you might find of interest. It’s about a program run through Eastern Michigan University’s Office of Academic Service-Learning called B.Side – The Business Side of Youth.

The program, according to the article, revolves around three core initiatives. The first, called B.Side Basics is an 18-week entrepreneurship course. The second is something called the Young Moguls Club. And, the third is B.Side Enterprises, a portfolio of somewhat-kid-run companies owned by B.Side. Here’s a clip from the article:

…”We’re really looking for this project to be a motivator to try to improve kids’ educational outcomes,” (Martha) Bloom said. “We’re looking at it to provide some economic stimulus in the community among the young people, and we’re also looking to create a partnership with young people and adults in the community that can support them and teach them the skills they need to be successful.”

The first official B.Side Enterprise, announced at the meeting, will be a partnership with Washtenaw County’s Digital Inclusion Task Force, an initiative to bring refurbished computers to low-income users, with B.Side students running the tech support business. The entire program begins in January and will be operated using Eastern’s facilities until a dedicated space in Ypsilanti can be obtained…

I’m conflicted. On one hand I like that kids are being given an opportunity to go out and do something on their own. I think it’s great for kids to be empowered like that. On the other hand, there’s something not quite right, in my opinion, about introducing kids to this concept of wealth creation as a primary motivator at such a young age… Here’s another clip from the same article:

…”Please remember my name,” Milan High School senior Alexis Anderson, a member of the B.Side youth advisory committee, told the group. “You will see it on the news, you will see it in Forbes. I will be a CEO someday”…

“Every kid in Ann Arbor and Ypsi and in the world wants to make money,” said steering committee member Lisa Dengiz, one of the co-founders of the Neutral Zone teen center in Ann Arbor…

On the whole, I think the program sounds like a positive. Kids need something to do. God knows, our community needs to think more entrepreneurially. And, some of the stuff, like the business to refurbish computers for those with low incomes, sounds really cool. I would just hope that some time is given to ethics and the like. If we’re just out to make “young moguls” then I don’t think it’s such a good idea… I don’t want a little Ken Lay cutting my grass… And, I don’t think we need to reinforce the idea that one’s worth as an individual is determined by how much one has in the bank. That message is out there enough already, and I suspect it’s one of the things that drives so many of our local kids into drug dealing. Yes, programs like this could be beneficial in that they offer another, legal way to “get rich,” but it seems to me that there’s a chance it could backfire.

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  1. todd
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Big thumbs up from this taxpayer.

    There are many, many programs run by the Fed. and State Govt. that are out there to help young entrepreneurs…and many are focused to help minorities, women (I separate them because they are a majority, but still get the shaft) and those in financial need.

    While I’m on the same side of the fence as you are re: Ken Lay comments, I’m sure most American kids are never presented with the option, “you can be your own boss”. This is a powerful message, particularly for those who are fed up with the system (both the kid and the taxpayer).

    Stoke some hope for those who would never see themselves in positions as community leaders.

    DIY. Minor Threat. You don’t like the world is run, run it yourself….this is a positive message on many levels.

  2. Mark
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with you, Todd. I just think when you put too much emphasis on the making of money there might be repercussions. I’m not saying that there will be more kids dealing drugs as a direct result of this program, but I do think it’s worth devoting some time to ethics, the role of business in the community, etc. And, in their defense, they might be doing just that. I just thought that it was worth pointing out.

  3. Posted October 21, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I do think it’s worth devoting some time to ethics, the role of business in the community, etc.

    As well as to the concept of “enough”. Teaching kids that it’s right and realistic for everyone of them to want and expect to get rich is going to lead to a lot of shattered dreams and dissatisfaction – a goal of sufficiency and modest, sustainable success is much more realistic.

    (OTOH, there was that article in Crains a few weeks back about the 17-year-old girl from…Southfield?…who is making $1 million this year from her MySpace profile design business…)

  4. todd
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I agree, fellas. Calling it “young moguls club” is monumentally stupid IMHO, but I’m sure that the head of the program will tell you that he/she thinks that there’ll be more participation if they sell it that way….

  5. egpenet
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    There is a LOT of entrepreneurship in Ypsilanti, not just self-employeds, but young and older folks who are growing businesses and employing others.

    Then, there’s the multiplier effect when these businesses and employees spend their money locally. All pretty basic stuff. And all very positive.

    Hat is off.

  6. Kelly
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff it inspired me to be an entrepreneur!


  7. mark
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Great teen entrepreneurship link, Kelly. Thanks for sharing… And, sorry to everyone else for removing it.

  8. Posted October 21, 2007 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Great article. For more information on what we are doing in developing countries re. growing and supporting young entrepreneurs. They need support and training, but as important…seed capital.

  9. F
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know how I’d contact B.Side for more information?

  10. Jordan
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the cheeky moniker. I actually have a friend who introduces me as “Jordan Miller, girl reporter,” and I think it’s kinda cute.

    Some answers to some questions:
    1. A big part of the program that wasn’t mentioned in the article (oh, the woes of limited space), is that the B.Side Enterprises are businesses run by the organization that allow kids to do any number of different jobs, from management to accounting to skilled labor.
    I would urge anyone interested in more information to check out Homeboy Industries (google it, I won’t link people out of Mark’s site).
    2. The decision to create this program was based on a lot of market research that says that these kids want to make money because a lot of them don’t have it. Part of the purpose of the program is to teach them that it isn’t easy to be your own boss, but that hard work, pragmatism, and developing a marketable skill can help keep you comfortable and out of poverty.
    3. To contact the B.Side, call Shamyle Nesfield or Angelina Broderick: 734-487.6570.

    I think this is going to be great, but the community needs to get involved. After writing the story I decided to volunteer to be a mentor, and it’s the first time I’ve done something like that (getting involved in a story). I urge you to do the same.

  11. egpenet
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Some ideas for Ypsi entrepreneurs …

    Historic Ypsilanti website that coordinates all of the various “hisoric” activities into one banner/blog.

    Historic guided walking tours, self-guided materials … making historic tourism a functional business in town.

    Maps on building walls in downtown that tout downtown history and guide self-directed pedestrians … on walls of crossroads buildings throughout downtown.

    Prominent markers downtown of “this is where this was … or happened … or who did what.”

    Someone in the “arts” community to create a “cast” of characters of personages who lived, worked, invented, made Ypsi famous to be spokespersons live and on video to tell the Ypsilanti story.

    We need a jazz club or a jazz bar downtown.

    We need a musical theater company at the RAC.

    We need a local newspaper or online news service … with a mainstream political agenda.

    We neeeed EVERYONE (owners, absentee owners, landlords, renters) to get involved in their neighborhoods to DO stuff, have FUN, get to KNOW one another. There’s a LOT of complaining but NOT enough day-in-day- out member activism.

    We need the Freighthouse open and functioning again.

    We need the Depot in the right hands to complete Depot Town.

    We need more entertainment in town to draw people downtown … minor league baseball team … minor league hockey team.

    We need EMU and WCC to begin spinning off new ventures. Did you know that Photoshop is a “pet” related to WCC? Wow! More, more, more!

    We need to reinvent the Heritage Festival … get away from the elephant ears and other junk food, get in good food … the ribs wereee fabulous last summer! Get exhibitors and entertainment that is top- notch … people WILL pay for that … and raise the level from carney folks to first class … which includes the arts and crafts fair. The most exciting thing I saw was the Robot Wars in Aubrey’s Parking Lot on Cross Street … fabulous effort of our young poeple!

    We need a local scientist to tell us … how do we retrofit solar to a historic building? I mean, is it really WORTH the expensee? Are there other ways to save energy in a historic district? Flourescent bulbs, insulation, EF windows, etc. etc. etc.

    COME ON YOUNG PEOPLE there’s money to be made right here in Ypsilanti!

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