Startup Weekend Tampa Youth allows students to learn and practice the foundational skills of entrepreneurship while collaborating to reach a common goal, taking a business from idea to reality. It sheds a spotlight on the creativity we have right here in our community from an often overlooked source: KIDS. The youth here in Tampa Bay are filled with great ideas and if we can take a page from their book and learn a bit from them along the way, we will have done our job by creating and encouraging the kids’ appetites for entrepreneurship.
The Startup Weekend Tampa Youth program is one of the first in the area to embrace this idea of collaboration and engages students in meaningful conversation around the topic of entrepreneurship. It reinforces collaboration, communication and problem solving during the weekend long event. We held our first event in September of 2014, and after the amazing experiences that our team and attendees shared; we knew it had to happen again in the community. One of the coolest experiences from our first event was how well students who barely knew each other formed teams around ideas they felt passionate about to create really unique pitches by the end of the weekend. Yes this happens at every Startup Weekend on Friday night – but seeing kids doing it felt extra special. They got over any fears they had and focused on the ideas and new teammates around them.
As an elementary school teacher who was introduced to Startup Weekend back in 2010, I have watched participants conjure up the courage to stand up in front of a room full of peers to pitch an idea they believed in. When we heard there was an editions event that focused on bringing this concept to kids, I KNEW I had to be involved on a bigger scale. By teaming with my fellow co-organizers, made up of a mix of educators and entrepreneurs, we found the perfect balance to engaging our younger audience while teaching about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Watching the kids take on roles that we normally see adults struggle with throughout the ups and downs of a Startup Weekend event and make great things happen along the way had to be the coolest part of all.
Some students in our area have access to entrepreneurship and resources, but we have made it our goal to find a way to incorporate a variety of learners and tap into their creative juices. By bringing entrepreneurship to the forefront of their academic experience, we are able to plant the seed in those who are yearning to evolve and foster their creative passions, regardless of demographic, background, or interest. Starting with students who are younger and sharing our knowledge from our experiences will allow them to be less limited in their thought barriers and provide them the big vision ideas they need to grow and mature into young adults. Exposing them to these ideas when they are young will exponentially impact our community as they begin to create and build these novel ideas.
This is the main reason we chose to tap into this unique demographic here in Tampa Bay. With Tampa emerging as a forefront for tech and entrepreneurship, we want our youth to be part of this evolution by helping guide them in becoming leaders of their generations. It was exhilarating to see budding “youthpreneurs” as we coined them, come to the table with legitimate problems that they had a solution for.
One of our former participants designed an app to help them keep track of how long the bus would take to arrive at their location. This is a problem for kids in our area because Florida gets ridiculously hot during the summers and the weather can be unpredictable during the winters. This app would allow kids to know exactly when to head to their bus stop, thus eliminating the awful and uncomfortable wait time they currently have to endure.
The group seen above was working on creating a robotic arm that would help lift heavier objects, thus eliminating the need for assistance with carrying things like groceries and other heavy loads. Working with the Youth Edition can be so rewarding when you see it in action. It’s moments like this that motivate us to organize these events.
When we began the process of organizing these events, our goal was never to make all attendees become entrepreneurs by the end of the weekend. We hoped to see kids become comfortable with other kids who had similar interests and collaborate as they worked through their different problems. We knew we had done something right when students AND parents left wanting more. Right after the final pitches, a Dad from the audience came up and congratulated our team on a job well done. Additionally, he offered to serve as a local sponsor for our next event, which we had not even discussed yet. Seeing support from the parents in the community gave us extra motivation to keep holding this type of event. It gave extra validation that it is a valuable program to families and the community.
Tristan Crawford, a thirteen year old and one of our winners at our first Startup Weekend Youth event said it best: “If you have a business idea and need help with understanding how to start a business, then I know the Startup Weekend Youth course will teach you how to bring your product or business idea to market, and provide you with the support you need after the course. I encourage you to go to the Startup Weekend Youth event when it comes to your town. It is a great learning experience. You will not be disappointed!”
They say “it takes a village to raise a child,” and we are proud to be a part of this village by teaching kids what is truly possible in this world.
– Nicholas Catania
Startup Weekend Tampa Youth Organizer