Not so long ago, entrepreneurialism was something associated with savvy billionaires like Richard Branson or Elon Musk. A business model that started with a great idea and took business smarts and years of trial and error to succeed.
But now entrepreneurialism is not only being used by savvy business people, it’s something being taught in schools and universities across Australia and the world.
In Melbourne, students are learning to set up their own entrepreneurial endeavours in the classroom – being taught how to pitch ideas to potential investors, come up with a business plan and market their ideas or products. They’re also learning how to write resumes and annual reports.
Entrepreneurial thinking is changing the way many of Melbourne’s schools are approaching teaching and learning.
It comes as no surprise to the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) who have, over the past few years, set up its own entrepreneurs program to teach students how to use their enterprising skills in an innovative way. The program is called $20 Boss.
“$20 Boss is our high school program which 26,000 students have participated in in the last couple of years across Australia,” Jan Owen, the chief executive of FYA, says.
“Basically in $20 Boss, you pull together all those [enterprising] skills and capabilities … and you learn them in an immersive way.
“So you’re asked to set up a business to benefit the people and planet and that has a purpose. You spend the $20 on that for the month, and anything you make you put back into your venture or the school.”
Owen says says these skills are needed now and into the future, with FYA research predicting that by the year 2030, workers will spend around 26 per cent more time being entrepreneurial than people in the workforce today.
Students from Our Lady of Mercy College in Heidelberg have taken part in the FYA program, with money raised going to McAuley Services helping women facing homelessness.
Patricia Sweeney, the college’s head of learning, says students across year levels take part in the $20 Boss program. “They begin the process by thinking about their interests and passions … research, work on their business strategy, survey their target market, source materials, and make their products,” she says. “In the process, they build their enterprise skills, and put these skills into practice in a ‘real world’ environment.”
The young entrepreneurs have come up with a range of products which they sell at lunchtime to fellow students including all-natural lip balms and scrubs, to delicious doughnuts and cupcakes.
Some were so successful, Sweeney says, that they were invited to showcase their products at FYA’s Unleashed Awards.
While $20 Boss is teaching many students each year, St Catherine’s School in Toorak has been teaching entrepreneurship through elective classes and business management subjects from year 9 onwards. Not only do students start their own business, they also work in groups to take on roles within it including the CEO and heads of finance, marketing and manufacturing.
Gina Steele, the director of student programs at St Catherine’s, says students benefit greatly from this type of learning not only because they are working together as a team, but also because they are learning to solve problems while running their businesses.
“The benefit is in seeing the project operate from start to finish – whether the business makes a profit or not, the learning is still valuable,” Steele says.
“This allows for true collaboration, teamwork and working with others. Starting a business with an idea, sourcing funding, marketing, manufacturing your own product and selling it to make a profit, is very fulfilling.”