Come Tuesday, Jushawn Carter, one of this year’s Global Young Entrepreneurs, will be honored alongside 29 other teen entrepreneurs at a splashy New York City gala.
It will be the opportunity of a lifetime made possible by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging and inspiring youths in low-income communities to pursue educational opportunities, start businesses and succeed in life.
Carter, a 17-year-old senior at Benjamin Mays High School, is the only student representing Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia, which has trained more than 1,000 Atlanta area students and teachers to connect their passions with creating value for themselves and others. Formerly Youth Entrepreneurs Atlanta, the program launched in 2006.
“Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia took me by the hands and gave me wings,” Carter said the other day at Sweet Dreams Bakery School of Cake Decorating in Tucker, where she was putting the finishing touches on the dummy cakes she planned to display at the upcoming gala.
At a time when the youth unemployment rate is one of the worst on record and many college grads are worried whether they will find a job, there is no better time to help students tap into their entrepreneurial spirit, said Tiffany Rivers, program coordinator for the Atlanta Public Schools program.
According to a Gallup poll released in January, 43 percent of students in grades five-12 want to be entrepreneurs, and around the country, youngsters are signing up for lessons in business savvy. Almost 60 percent of students say their school has classes on how to start a business, up from 50 percent in 2011.
Carter was talking to a teacher about her business, Cakesbyfourteen, last year when she learned about Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia and enrolled in the class.
“They helped me moved forward,” she said.
Carter said she “had a little experience in the kitchen,” where her grandmother taught her the fine points of mixing batter, turning a recipe into her own and cake decorating.
Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia, through seminars and hands-on classroom activities, helped her develop a formal business plan that included identifying her competitive advantage, financial projections, and marketing strategy. Cakesbyfourteen became Cakesby14.
“A lot of students have ideas, but they are not operational,” Rivers said. “She was a lot further along in putting her business together and crystallizing it.”
When NFTE began soliciting nominations for its 2013 Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Rivers said Carter was the first among Atlanta area students to come to mind.
In February, they learned she’d been selected to receive the honor.
“I was ecstatic but also not surprised because Jushawn is an outstanding student,” Rivers said. “This is just the beginning, so we’re excited for her.”
In addition to U.S. winners, there also will be an international contingent from countries as far away as Saudi Arabia, Germany and England. The students will be honored Tuesday at the 25th Anniversary Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Gala in New York.
To her credit, Carter has been feeding her entrepreneurial spirit since age 12 when she first developed a line of natural bath salts.
It all began, she said, the day her mother, Nayshunda Burke, complained the soap she was using was making her break out and wished she could find something natural.
“It got me thinking,” Carter said.
So began her search for “natural” ingredients — peppermint and cucumber and other natural oils — she could combine to make bath salts and oils that would be gentler on the skin.
Carter said she tested, then began distributing her soaps to family members.
But the young entrepreneur would soon discover bath products weren’t her passion. One day, while watching a cake art show on the Food Network, it hit her.
“I can do this,” she said.
When she shared her dream with her mother, the response was as it had always been: “Let’s do it.”
Burke enrolled her daughter in a class and, in 2009, the young entrepreneur, then 14, launched Cakesbyfourteen, generating thousands of dollars annually baking birthday and special occasion cakes.
It wasn’t until she enrolled in Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia, however, that she was able to actually develop a business and marketing plan.
Despite her progress with the program’s help, Carter, who plans to major in baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., in the fall, said she expected NFTE to reject her nomination.
“I was extremely happy,” she said when she found out otherwise. “I cried then I called my mom.”
The case for entrepreneurship education
- One in three high school students in the U.S. drop out — that’s 7,000 students every day or one student every nine seconds — including nearly 50 percent of all African-American, Latino and Native American students.
- High school students from low-income families were six times more likely to drop out than students from higher-income families.
- High school dropouts earn, on average, $250,000 less over a lifetime than high school graduates, costing state and federal governments more than $26 billion in lost income taxes.
- 81 percent of dropouts report they would have stayed in school if it were relevant to their lives.
Source: Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship