For the last couple of years, I've been volunteering for an organization called the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Founded in 1987, NFTE brings business plan competitions into underserved high schools across the country. Some families have parents that teach this stuff to their kids naturally through role modeling and at the dinner table. Others rely on NFTE. It's cool shit.I noticed that there were always one or two students that wanted to take their idea further. They had that itch that so many of us have spent our lives scratching. They wanted to move beyond business plans and actually build something. But they didn't know how.
Help aspiring entrepreneurs launch a real product in 4 days.
Props to Krista Katsantonis at NFTE Bay Area for believing me when I said this was possible. I told her that our curriculum would be straight lean and customer development. I promised her that the Bay Area entrepreneurial community would step up and mentor these kids.
Four days before the week was scheduled to begin, I wrote one blog post asking for mentors to sign up and posted it on Hacker News. I told you guys that we needed 3 hours of your time, no preparation or commitment needed. Show up for a morning or afternoon session, pair off with the teen entrepreneurs, and help them move their product forward. That's it.The response was incredible! Within a day, dozens of experienced entrepreneurs had signed up to be mentors! Boo-yah! I gave only two guidelines for the mentors:
- You can't type for them.
- You have to leave them self-sufficient.
Crystal was initially struggling to think of an idea. Chris from Central.ly, helped her think through a dozen different product ideas until she landed on the TogetherPouch. Crystal is now making a group-snuggie that is targeted towards her own friends. It's a totally unique blanket-pouch, in the shape of characters she creates. By day 2, she had a prototype. By day 3, she had a website and was set up to receive orders. I would not be surprised to see TogetherPouch as the most popular Sweet Sixteen gift this year...
DeShawn came to NFTE with a love for making electronic music. He had been selling his music as background music to indie artists and game makers, mostly in cash transactions to people he knows. With a few days of hard work and missteps, the mentors helped DeShawn figure out how to set up a Weebly website with Soundcloud as a backend to host his music. Now anyone, anywhere in the world, can purchase exclusive rights to Deshawn's original music. Check it out.
Vivian is catering a magical Bubble Tea experience to startups in SF. The mentors taught her Hustling 101. Our new bizdev wizard, networked her way into getting Heroku to be her first customer (without our direct help!). She's now working on a way to creat a shelf-stable version of Bubble Tea that she can sell in local stores.
- Join the NFTE Mentors Facebook group and we'll keep you up-to-date on mentor opportunities
- Donate and help us spread the word.
- Not in San Francisco? NFTE is all over the U.S. Contact your local NFTE organization and offer to get involved.
Find discussion of this post on Hacker News