Volunteering to coach at DECA. Subject: Being an Entrepreneur

Kids these days have it good. There are more opportunities awaiting them than there was for us and our parents. And we, generation Y, thought we were privileged. As I sat in the judging room awaiting my 5 high school students I looked around and saw youth, exuberance, nervousness, excitement, joy, fear, all bundled up into a whole room of creatures known as “teenagers”.

Let me back up a little. Google has volunteer days – maybe once every 6 months, and this year, instead of a skiing off site, I decided to do something for someone else. The event that we signed up for really made my day, as my major in college was entrepreneurship, and I was judging the entrepreneurship section of the DECA event. We had 2 hours to read the detailed business plans in written form, and then 15 minutes each to review the presentations of the actual high school students.

So fast forward, I was sitting at a judging table, and the organizers brought the kids over to me to pitch their business ideas. I had 5 kids. All of them were great. I won’t go into detail, but their plans were quite solid. I would say, 3 of them had ok plans. Great passion. Loved the writing. Finances were way off 🙂 The judges agreed during lunch that their concepts are great, but the revenue forecasts and business acumen of simply adding the numbers didn’t make sense. Essentially, they lacked the experience to give proper judgment to market expectations and conditions that influence their revenue and expense numbers. That said, the kids looked sharp in their suits, and I commend them for stepping up, giving it shot, and taking feedback on how to improve their presentations.

One of my kids really stood out, he had a killer PowerPoint slide, great presentation skills, and a solid plan. Unlike the other kids, his business was simple, clean, and close to his passions. One kid had a $2,000,000 business plan to open a club. I’m said, “why do you need so much money? Where are you going to get it?” Another kid, had an organizational chart with 3 ivy league MBAs working for him. His first year revenue projections are 250k, and his employee wage expenses in the same year is 360k. Unbelievable. He had great charisma and strategy-speak potential. But his plan was probably copied from one of his business school uncles.

The one kid that stood out was really passionate, and he had a GREAT plan. He needed $26,000 to bank on the first year for expenses. He already talked to his dad and the bank about how to get it. He business was focused around his passion – video games. He already had contacts that organized unofficial game tournaments. He knew his market, his city, his demographics, and even had brochure for the store times and store manager schedules. It was amazing. Towards the end I gave him some advice about incorporation and tax shelters. He thanked me, and he said something that was interesting to me. He said, “I am really glad that you are my coach today, thank you for all your advice.”. A simple phrase that was, but it revealed a lot subtleties about this kid’s potential. He was able make me feel special. He took feedback well. He was more focused on his business than winning to plan competition, and ironically those usually are the business plans that do best anyway. Because they don’t care if they win (well, maybe they do a little bit), but ultimately they are going to change their destinies regardless of anyone else. That’s an entrepreneur.

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