Acton Omaha Children’s Business Fair inspires entrepreneurship in youth

A unique event on October 28 at Kaneko in Omaha kicked off a series of activities designed to spark interest and self-discovery in youth entrepreneurship. The Acton Omaha Children’s Business Fair attracted 88 young people ages 5 – 16 representing nearly 50 businesses they developed in the weeks leading up to the fair. Total attendance…

Participantspicture

Acton Omaha Children’s Business Fair participants

A unique event on October 28 at Kaneko in Omaha kicked off a series of activities designed to spark interest and self-discovery in youth entrepreneurship. The Acton Omaha Children’s Business Fair attracted 88 young people ages 5 – 16 representing nearly 50 businesses they developed in the weeks leading up to the fair. Total attendance was around 500.

“The mission of the Acton Omaha Children’s Business Fair is to ignite entrepreneurship in youth and help them learn to be a “builder” of their lives,” said Rachel Benson, event organizer and Founder of the Acton Academy Omaha. “We want to be part of the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Acton Academy is a non-traditional, learner-driven school concept founded ten years ago in Austin, Texas. Benson is in the process of establishing an academy in Omaha that incorporates youth entrepreneurship.

“The mindset of Acton is along the same journey as entrepreneurs,” she said. “Failure is not a bad thing, and it’s not all about achievement but who you are becoming.”

The youth entrepreneurship events allow Benson to follow her passion and leverage experience gained through starting a real estate business with her husband.

“It’s a perfect marriage between my passion to help kids and my experience in business,” she said. “If I would have known how to think this way when I was young, I wouldn’t have been so wrapped up in the achievement part. I never really had to venture into failure.”

ND Kicks

Following a pre-launch event at the AIM Exchange Building, young people set about building their businesses at home in preparation for the business fair. Products were displayed and sold at the fair by the young people who developed them, with prizes given in different categories.

“There were prizes for the most original business idea, the highest business potential and the best presentation,” Benson said. “All the work was done at home.”

Prior to presenting their businesses and products to the public, participants engaged with adult guides to learn about business concepts and practice soft skills.

“They focused on their pitch and the value of profit,” Benson said. “How would they determine value and price their product? Why am I doing this? What’s the deeper story behind the business?”

Several area businesses provided support for the event.

Econic was the presenting sponsor,” Benson said. “Gallup donated books for different age groups, and Chick-fil-A provided free sandwiches.”

BowMeow business with Jerry Johnson, Pillar Financial Mortgage

Benson plans to hold business fairs about every six months, with the next one scheduled May 11, 2019. In the meantime, Benson is launching the Acton Builder Lab with the first event scheduled for Sunday, December 2 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the AIM Exchange Building.

“The Builder Lab is a way for kids to get connected and support each other,” she said. “It will also get kids connected to influencers in the community. But kids helping each other is more powerful than adults telling them.”

The Acton approach is grounded in discovering and acting on strengths.

“Entrepreneurs have a different skill set than what is typically emphasized in a classroom,” Benson said. “Let’s look at who you are and what you’re good at. It helps kids see their own value.  When you can be humble enough to see others’ strengths, that is key to working in a team.”

Benson understands that not every young person going through the program will wind up owning a business. And she feels that is not the primary objective.

“Not all these kids will be business owners someday,” she said. “We provide hands-on experiences for them to discover who they are, what they’re good at and have the courage to step out. It’s character that we’re looking to nurture.”

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.

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