Local organization encourages students to become entrepreneurs

Life should always be full of dreams. Those dreams should start when we are children. Of course dreams often come after we see what other people have accomplished. That's one reason why a local organization is determined to help grow young entrepreneurs.

Drake McDonald is a junior at American Christian Academy. The pre-calculus test he's taking will come in handy some day when he's running his own business. "I think getting kids involved in the economy of our community is a great idea. Alexander Hamilton knew that a great economy makes a stable nation," he said.

McDonald is one of twelve Tuscaloosa students enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The first in Alabama. By then end of the thirty-week class, he hopes to have a solid idea to pitch to investors. "I hope to learn the ins and outs of running a business. I want to get real world hands on experience," said McDonald.

The program is the result of a partnership between the University of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce. Local business owners were recruited to teach classes and pass on their knowledge to young entrepreneur hopefuls.

Lee Henderson, owner of the Smoothie King on University Boulevard, says he was bitten by the business bug early on. "When I was about eight years old I took interest in a paper route. It was the second largest route in town and it was a big undertaking. I learned how to manage money," he said.

Now, once a week on the University of Alabama's campus, Henderson will meet with young people to teach them about business plans, money management, even perseverance. "Know that it's okay that you will fail. A big misconception is that you're going to succeed every time. I'm living proof that I have not succeeded on ever little venture that I've done," said Henderson.

Tuscaloosa Chamber president Jim Page says this program goes far beyond the twelve students enrolled. He says this is a matter of supporting future economic growth throughout the state, even the nation.

"The foundation of this nation's economy is small business. And so entrepreneurs are creating small businesses. They are creating jobs. The long term effect is diversifying our economy and really growing our own," said Page.

At the end of the 30 week course, the students will have an opportunity to pitch ideas to local investors.

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