Branch County 4-H Entrepreneurship Program enjoys great first year!

New 4-H project is successful at teaching young people about entrepreneurship.

Branch County 4-H Youth Entrepreneurship Program participants pictured left to right: Kyle Russell, Gracie Shortridge, Lucas Disbro and Cheryl Washburn. Photo credit: Debra Barrett | MSU Extension

Branch County 4-H Youth Entrepreneurship Program participants pictured left to right: Kyle Russell, Gracie Shortridge, Lucas Disbro and Cheryl Washburn. Photo credit: Debra Barrett | MSU Extension

Starting small with achievable goals are basic principles of entrepreneurship. That is exactly what Branch County 4-H has done with their new project: the Branch County 4-H Youth Entrepreneurship Program. Seven area teens started the project and three reached the finish line this month when their 4-H work was evaluated, judged and products sold during the Branch County Fair.

Using Michigan State University Extension 4-H career preparation and youth entrepreneurship resources, 4-H Program Coordinator Connie Lange equipped 4-H volunteer Shirley VanDam with the tools to launch the Branch County 4-H Youth Entrepreneurship Program. Volunteer Kayla Parshall and parent Traci Disbro also assisted with the project and may expand their involvement next year.

As a retired home economics teacher and veteran 4-H leader, VanDam was excited about the program as entrepreneurship provides an avenue for young people to practice and develop creativity. These skills can be used by young people for the rest of their lives. In addition, participants learned to explore new ideas, make something that someone else wants, increase their self-esteem and come together as a group.

Educational lessons in the program included sessions on:

  • Brands and logos
  • Business plans
  • Professional pitch and how to introduce yourself
  • Business handshakes
  • Young entrepreneurs from the community

As a result of the program, project highlights included:

  • Product debut and sale at a 4-H leaders pre-fair meeting.
  • Taping of a radio show on July 30 that was aired as part of Branch County Fair promotion.
  • Youth hosting their own “store” and selling their products on Tuesday of the Branch County Fair. Tuesday was Kids Day and the new 4-H entrepreneurs had the opportunity to set-up their displays by the livestock arena during beef show and then Tuesday evening in the MSU Extension 4-H booth.

Youth that completed the project with the intent to go on to fair, created the banner pictured above that includes their business logos. Participants include:

  • Kyle Russell, who created the Hobby Graphix t-shirt design company.
  • Gracie Shortridge, who created Gracie’s Goodies, highlighting chocolate-covered pretzels.
  • Lucas Disbro, who made the LD business that creates recycled bird feeders.
  • Cheryl Washburn, who made paper quill jewelry (spiral business logo).

Enthusiasm for next year is high and will include the addition of registering the youth businesses for business and sales tax. A couple of the participants are even considering coming back as 4-H teen leaders.

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