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Rural Nebraska is growing a fresh crop of entrepreneurs
[Editor’s Note: Anyone in rural economic development will tell you that entrepreneurs are one of the biggest drivers of economic success and vital for the future of rural America. Two separate stories crossed our desk recently with different takes on ways to inspire and train tomorrow’s business owners. We were greatly encouraged and hope you will be as well.]
Entrepreneurship program gives kids hand-on experience in running a business
by Janita Pavelka
This summer, south central Nebraska has been growing their counties one young entrepreneur at a time.
Two Youth Biz Camps were held in Arapahoe and Holdrege which trained 22 youngsters from the ages of 10 to 16 on how to own their own business. The students studied model entrepreneurs, scoured their family trees for business owners and scrutinized their own personalities with the Gallup Strengths test, all with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur.
After brainstorming multiple business ideas, practicing customer service skills, studying marketing and networking, understanding the financial side of business, and being inspired by informative speakers, they all reached their goal of being an entrepreneur.
After five class meetings where the UNL-developed 4-H ESI Camp Manual was used as the guideline, every student had a real, live, hands-on business they could present to the public at the “Model Expo” which culminates their learning experience.
Innovative business ideas
I believe in the adage, “Start young, start small”. Every child can be a business owner at an early age and entrepreneurship can easily be taught in our school systems commencing in first grade.
The 22 kids’ business ideas are fresh and unique with a new twist on old ideas, such as:
- “Shockalocka Lemonade: Shockingly Natural” which uses fresh-squeezed lemons and the stevia herb as a sweetener;
- “Apple Pockets: A Treat Even Adam and Eve Couldn’t Resist “is a healthy baked treat using phyllo dough, apples and local honey.
- Austin’s Targets is a green company using recycled phone books, duct tape and hand-painted bull’s eyes for archery targets.
- Fisher’s Stepping Stones and Birdbaths are creative outdoor blocks and baths featuring LED lights and glow-in-the-dark stars.
This is a small example of the exceptional creativity shown by the students and their parents in planning their new ventures.
The community has embraced the young entrepreneurship program fully by attending the “Model Expo” where the business community offered years of wisdom and business advice, which money can’t buy, for the kids to soak up and take to heart.
The goals of the Youth Biz Camp are based on action: the only way to learn a new skill is to do it.
“Entrepreneuring” is an action verb and it is a skill you learn through doing. The more you do it, the more it will become second nature and change your life. Start young, start small and you and your business ideas will grow, along with your confidence, skills, wisdom and bank account.
North Star Kids are building on their own successful poultry business
by Barbara Ann Dush
A new generation of entrepreneurs has emerged in North Star, Nebraska.
Three young producers have formed a market of their own: "North Star Kids." Sisters Jennifer and Ellie Knopik, and their cousin, Quinton Knopik, are raising turkeys and chickens for egg layers and eggs sales. They are working to develop a market through the North Star Neighbors, a group of small family farmers who live near an old town called North Star. North Star Neighbors pride themselves on "holding true to the tradition of quality and stewardship instilled in them from days gone by."
North Star Kids started in May 2010 with 175 turkeys and 200 layer hens. Turkeys are hard to raise, unlike laying hens that have a great success rate. The kids also work together to dress the turkeys.
Because the operation is a 24/7 job, these young poultry raisers have developed good communication skills. "We either talk to each other in school or just call each other on the phone to see who’s doing the chores," Ellie said.
Chores include more than just picking an average of five dozen eggs a day. There’s the feeding, watering, and getting the eggs ready for customers.
"The first thing we do when we come home from school is put our work clothes on," Quinton noted. "If you start chores right when you get home from school, it takes until dark to finish." Eggs are candled for cracks or blood spots, weighed, then placed in the proper carton and labeled according to gathering date.
Free range and organic
The North Star Kids are proud of their products because "you get to know exactly who and where they come from, and knowing where food comes from is important to us." The chickens are pastured birds that run free; and their feed consists of NON-GMO corn, oats, soybeans, alfalfa and an organic premix for minerals and vitamins.
"I’ve learned a lot doing this – about chickens, turkeys and poultry and what they need to eat," Quinton said. "Like the turkeys need fish meal; it’s healthier for them."
Nothing compares in taste and nutrition to farm-fresh eggs; consequently, their egg market expands across Nebraska, with deliveries going into Lincoln and Omaha. "We have some people that will order five or six dozen at a time just because they don’t want to run out, and some won’t use any other for baking."
Plans for expansion
The North Star Kids also have plans to expand. "We talked about selling some chickens to people who would want some for their yards and they could have their own eggs," Jennifer said.
Quinton added: "We were thinking of building chicken tractors for people in town. They’re not too big and we can make them where there’s four nests and an area for the chickens to walk around in."
They have also designed a business flyer, and are working on a design to add their business to the North Star Neighbors web site at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s with the continued determination, cooperation and communication that this generation residing at North Star have proved themselves to be responsible partners ... as well as the solid future of Nebraska.