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The magazine dedicated to IGNITING innovation and entrepreneurship for Michigan youth

Fall 2012

Supporting Our Next-Generation of Entrepreneurial Thinkers

Take our entrepreneurship crash course!

Channel Entrepreneurial Thinking into a Career Path Take the challenge!

Submit your innovative idea to our 4th Annual Young Innovators Competition! Real students solve real challenges

T h e b e st way to p r e d i c t t h e f ut u r e i s to c r e at e it. – Pete r D r u c ke r


Big Ideas! By Steve Webster

Welcome to the second edition of My Big Idea magazine! My Big Idea highlights the courage, creativity, and ambition of young Michiganders. For this issue, we wanted to highlight how “entrepreneurial thinking” can be used to not only launch businesses, but also to lay the foundation of any future career. Throughout the magazine’s pages, you’ll find several examples, tools, and other resources that we hope will inspire your creativity and entrepreneurial ideas. My Big Idea is possible in large part to the Prima Civitas Foundation’s Moving Ideas To Market (MI2M) Initiative’s IGNITE Advisory Network. The volunteer Advisory Network is comprised of teachers, educational representatives, economic developers, and others that are passionate about youth entrepreneurship across Michigan. Many of the stories included in these pages came directly from this network. I encourage you to learn more about MI2M at and to contact Holly Hetzner, the MI2M Project Manager at holly. We hope you enjoy My Big Idea, and we invite you to join the movement across Michigan that is helping to IGNITE the big ideas that will create the next Michigan.

CEO of the Prima Civitas Foundation

Fall 2012

The magazine dedicated to IGNITING innovation and entrepreneurship for Michigan youth T EENS


Paying for College is Serious

Channeling Business Entrepreneurial Thinking Into a Career Path! “I’ve Got a Better Idea” Challenge


5 Ways to Become an


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Don’t Count Me Out!

by Stefanie Lenway, Dean of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad College of Business at Michigan State University

Saying Yes to Success


by Matthew Hester, Teacher of R U Ready 4 BIZness Curriculum


Building Bright Futures


Innovative In STEM Students MI 2 M Engineer in the Deep 8 Entrepreneurship 16 Great Lakes, Great Innovators!




Two Men, a Mom, and a


A Family That Got Entrepreneurship Moving

Crash Course

IGNITE 17 Young Innovators Competition


“Am I an Entrepreneur?” Your questions answered!

Fall 2012 Volume II, No. II

©2012 Prima Civitas Foundation No reprints without permission. To obtain permission, please contact Holly Hetzner at

With thanks…. Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Funding support Steven Webster, CEO, Prima Civitas Foundation Holly Hetzner, Editor and content manager, Prima Civitas Foundation Jack Nowakowski, Contributing writer Kyle Kehus, Contributing writer Bruce Mackley, Publication design BRD Printing, Printing services & our network of 50+ volunteer organizations for helping us to uncover, develop, and promote these inspiring stories.






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Channeling Entrepreneurial Thinking Into a Career Path! by Amanda Dumond-Avila, Director, Talent Initiatives & Business Enhancement, Prima Civitas Foundation

As you continue to explore your passions and career interests, applying entrepreneurial thinking can be extremely rewarding. One of the best things about thinking like an entrepreneur is that you can apply it to whichever career path you decide to embark upon. Being entrepreneurial is all about building connections and seeking out rewarding experiences. You can set yourself apart from your peers and future colleagues by taking the initiative to gain knowledge about various career areas through internships, volunteering, and job shadow experiences. These experiences will help you learn more about your personal skills and ambitions while also building your confidence, a component that is key to your future. Employers look for confidence and clear skill sets in their hiring processes. They can pull information from your resume and determine in an interview if you are confident that you can perform the duties required. Having those real-life experiences will help you show them the skills you’ve obtained. Fall 2012

Being confident and able to clearly communicate your skills is also essential for networking. People, regardless of whether they are hiring or not, tend to notice and remember individuals who can clearly communicate their strengths with an upbeat attitude, which comes with confidence. As you continue to build your professional network, these connections can lead to recommendations, job leads, and partnerships. As for those students who do decide to start their own businesses, being confident and continually refining your business pitch will help when approaching potential funders or investors. Finally, entrepreneurial thinking can give you an edge when it comes to using critical thinking to solve problems. Think about the traditional linear method of approaching a problem. It involves

following a series of specific steps in the proper order, moving from starting point to end point. As an entrepreneur, however, you can find success where others might not by identifying opportunities rather than problems. The process will often feel non-linear, in the sense that you will be working on moving pieces that don’t appear to have a smooth flow. However, being able to think dynamically and focus on a variety of factors at once will lead you to innovative and successful answers to the challenges you face. In today’s fast paced and ever-changing world, being able to act entrepreneurially and think on your feet may be the most advantageous trait a young person can have. Remember to always seek out new opportunities that will build your skill sets and add to your confidence, whether they’re at home, at school, or around your community. When you utilize the unique approach that entrepreneurial thinking offers, exploring careers can be rewarding, stimulating, and—most of all—exciting!





It’s well known that Mark Zuckerberg launched the social networking site Facebook while a student at Harvard University. But did you know that Frederick W. Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, outlined the idea for the overnight delivery service in a paper he wrote for an economics class while a student at Yale University? College is a prime time to develop or to continue your entrepreneurial mindset. At Michigan State University, where I am Dean of the Broad College of Business, or at other universities in Michigan, you’ll have many opportunities to pursue your passion for entrepreneurship while earning your degree. Here are just five:


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Five ways to pursue your entrepreneurial passion in college by Stefanie Lenway, Dean of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU)

1. Study Entrepreneurship Many colleges offer courses or academic programs in entrepreneurship. Some universities in Michigan, including Central Michigan University and Northern Michigan University, even offer a major in the subject. The Broad College of Business at Michigan State University offers an entrepreneurship specialization that you can take in addition to your business major in accounting, finance, management, marketing, or supply chain management. The specialization helps you broaden your perspective beyond your chosen major and teaches you about the process of developing a new venture, how to position your new business, and financial topics specific to entrepreneurship. You also gain business experience by working with actual entrepreneurs and helping them solve the real problems they are facing in their companies.

2. Join Student Organizations Getting involved in student organizations is an ideal way to make connections with other students and professionals who share your passion for entrepreneurship. At MSU, students can get involved with the MSU Entrepreneurship Association, the Innovation Club for Entrepreneurs (ICE), and the Entrepreneurship Network, in addition to more than 550 other university-sponsored groups. Through your involvement with these organizations, you will have opportunities to hear business professionals talk about their Fall 2012

experiences developing ideas, obtaining funding, and launching new companies. You will begin to develop a network that will stay with you even after you graduate and launch your company.

3. Get Real-World Experience Practical experience in an entrepreneurial setting is an important part of any entrepreneurship education. Look for a program that includes a required experiential component through coursework, a capstone project, or internship. The Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MSU coordinates real-world experiences for students in the entrepreneurship specialization. Through Spartan Strategic Solutions, the institute pairs students with local companies on consulting projects. In the past, students have helped conduct marketing feasibility studies and market research for start-up companies and small businesses in midMichigan.

4. Test Your Business Plan If you’ve developed a plan for your business, in college you’ll get many chances to test it out in front of the experts. Many universities, including the Broad College at MSU, hold business plan competitions for students. These competitions can help you raise capital for your business venture, refine your business plan, and expand your business network. You may also be able to pit your business plan against those of students from universities around the country in inter-

collegiate business plan competitions. Rice University, in Houston, Texas, has one of the largest intercollegiate business plan competitions in the world. Here in Michigan there are several regional and state competitions, such as the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, that are open to student entrepreneurs whose ideas have long-term potential. The 2012 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition will award $50,000 to student startup companies.

5. Seek Out Student Incubators Like other business incubators, student incubators provide office space, conference rooms, and general resources, such as technology and office equipment, at a low cost to assist student start-ups in launching their business ideas. MSU’s student-run incubator, The Hatch, is open to students from all majors. Students work together in an open, creative space to develop business ideas. They receive and provide feedback on projects, discuss funding opportunities, and trade skills such as web and graphic design with other student entrepreneurs. The University of Michigan and Northern Michigan University also have similar facilities to nurture student start-up companies. You will find many ways to pursue your passion for entrepreneurship in college. Take advantage of these opportunities to build your leadership skills and develop your professional network.






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Porcha Clemons is a 21-year old Mott Community College student born and raised in Flint, Michigan. Outside of school she’s a dancer for the Detroit Mechanix and a cheerleader for the Detroit Lions, where she’s also the program’s Youth Ambassador. Through her participation in YES Flint, a local entrepreneurial resource network, Porcha has gained valuable experience that has put her on a path towards entrepreneurship. We talked with Porcha about pursuing her dreams, the journey of becoming a young professional, and how her experience at YES Flint has helped her along the way. What are some of your current activities? Let’s see... right now I’m a Detroit Lions cheerleader. I’m also their Youth Ambassador, so I spend a lot of time talking in the community. Besides that, I’m a dancer for the Detroit Mechanix, a professional sport organization at the Silverdome in Pontiac. I also do a lot within my church, where my dad is a minister. I stay pretty busy!

What first got you interested in entrepreneurship? Just being able to run things myself, to have some independence and be my own boss. That was definitely the big thing that appealed to me right off the bat.

ideas about how our businesses can be successful. They teach about accounting, money, how to write a good business plan, a lot of stuff. When people come in it works kind of like a workshop, and each week has a different topic. So basically I’ve learned a lot of the essentials to running a business. I learn something new every week.

Why do you think entrepreneurship is important for young people?

gram, though. We go to these different seminars that help teach me how to be that “it” person.

What are some of your goals right now? Right now I’m going to school for broadcasting at Mott Community College. In the fall or the winter I’m definitely looking for an internship. As far as long-term goals, I’m pretty ambitious. I want to eventually have my own show and be the next Oprah.

What advice do you have for others interested in entrepreneurship? Just keep pushing yourself. I’m still figuring out what I want to do, so just to have an idea and try to do things that will push you towards that goal is

I think it really helps young people expand their minds. Being able to just think outside the box is really important today. It also can help give people that might otherwise not have much going on, something positive to do. Really, I

“I’m going to school for broadcasting. I want to have my own show and be the next Oprah.” - Porcha Clemons

Right now, though, I’m not exactly sure what path I want to take as an entrepreneur, so YES Flint has really been helping me think about that and prepare myself.

think entrepreneurship helps empower people. That’s the most important thing.

What is YES Flint?

Well, as the Detroit Lions’ Youth Ambassador, my job is to go out and communicate with young people around the state and with the media. I talk to them about their goals, empower them, and encourage them to follow their dreams. I think that in a way this is my sort of entrepreneurship right now—because it’s all about me creating these positive messages for people to believe in and follow. I hope to keep doing things like that.

It’s an organization that helps people ages 16 to 36 that want to start small businesses. They help you get your business started the right way by asking you a lot of important questions and helping you work through things step-by-step with business mentors.

What are some of the things YES Flint has helped you with? We do these activities where we have to write out our goals—the things that we really want to accomplish—and those kind of guide everything we do. Then a lot of different people—successful entrepreneurs, teachers, community members—come in and help give us Fall 2012

How do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

What has been one of the biggest challenges doing the work that you do? I have to have a big personality, so being able to step out and capture people’s attention can be a challenge. I’ve gotten a lot of help from the [Detroit Lions] pro-

essential. Don’t worry about not having a perfect plan, as long as you’re pushing yourself and getting experience. And get connected to the right people! I network a lot -- in school, when I’m at games-pretty much everywhere! Students in Flint - to learn more about YES Flint go to If you would like to learn more about similar programs around Michigan, go to





Innovative Students Engineer in the Deep Imagine taking the trip of a lifetime to the other side of the world to visit the tropical beaches of Palau. You’re on a mission to use state-of-the-art technology to find and salvage downed aircrafts from World War II. If this sounds to you like the plot of the latest action movie, think again. This adventure was undertaken by a group of students just like you from Stockbridge High School in Michigan. The Stockbridge High School Underwater Robotics team went to the small island nation of Palau to help search for remnants of a WWII-era B-24 Bomber. The students were selected because of their outstanding success in the Marine Advanced Technology Education underwater robotics competitions. “We got some publicity in the local paper, and some people from the BentProp project saw that we were competing at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA,” said Stockbridge High School teacher Bob Richards. “They wanted to know if we would be interested in participating in a real-world mission looking for missing aircraft from World War II.” Getting a chance to solve a real-world engineering problem was a huge opportunity for the team to learn more about the design process and what goes into a complex engineering project. The team needed to build a robot from scratch that could dive down and help find the lost planes. But the program at Stockbridge is about more than just building robots. The students also learn to flex communication skills such as writing and public speaking to help promote their team and fundraise for their trip. “We run it more like a business than a class. I don’t think any of us look at it as a class anymore,” said Jenny, a student participant. “Our team is split up into marketing and engineering.”


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In Palau, the students would wake up every day, take the boat out on the water, and scan the area looking for clues to lead them to where the B-24 was hiding. Their robot used SONAR and a variety of other sensors to seek out the plane at the bottom of the ocean. Though they didn’t find the B-24 that they were looking for, the team was still able to uncover a WWII relic. While in Palau they were able to track down and find an American Corsair, a U.S. Marine Corps fighter airplane from the war that was forced to crash-land in the ocean. From there, the BentProp project was able to track down the pilot based on the serial number found on the plane. “It was a controlled crash and the pilot was able to survive,” noted Jenny. “He is 91 years old and living in Florida. BentProp sent images to him and his family that we had taken with our robot and it brought tears to his eyes.” While in Palau, the team got to make some important connections with university faculty, professional contacts, and government officials. The U.S. Ambassador to Palau and the President of Palau ate with the students, visited them while they were working, and dedicated their time to ensure their success. Students also got a leg up

on college and the professional world. “I was actually thinking I was interested in working with prosthetics,” said Barb, another student participant. “This experience is pretty much what I want to be doing with my life.” The Stockbridge Underwater Robotics team may originate from a small town, but the class dreams big. “If you are going to do it, you have to start somewhere,” noted Jenny. Their success in the underwater robotics competition helped them raise the funds and build the connections they needed for an amazing opportunity. This spring, the team will return to Palau to continue the search for the elusive B-24 bomber. But no matter what they find, they all agree that this experience has been more than worth it.

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Have you ever noticed a problem in your community that made you think, “Why hasn’t anyone done anything about this? I bet I could!” Thanks to a $10,000 grant from MIT-Lemelson, a group of 11 Michigan teens have done just that. Using math, engineering, and entrepreneurship skills, the Williamston High School InvenTeam set out to create an invention they hope

of the engineering tasks as the group built their buoy prototype. The InvenTeam tried for 2 years to come up with an idea that the Lamelson-MIT Project would accept. Everything from the buoy’s design to the marketing plan has been studentdriven. Members of the team divided themselves up into committees, each with a clear purpose.

Great Lakes, Great Innovators!

Now the buoy is in the testing phase, which may be the most challenging part. “The hardest part as far as the

“ Being able to feel that our ideas are just as good as an adult’s ideas really makes us feel good.” - Julie, InvenTeam member

will save lives throughout Michigan and beyond by warning swimmers of dangerous rip currents.

Rip currents in the Great Lakes are a growing concern for Michigan swimmers. These fast-moving channels are difficult to detect and can quickly pull swimmers away from shore, making it extremely difficult for them to swim back. The team decided to create a method of detecting these dangerous currents in real time. Their invention, the Offshore Rip Current Alert System (ORCA), is a buoy that will sound a siren and produce a visual warning whenever it detects dangerous rip currents below the water’s surface. “It’s exciting for me because it’s much different than stuff I’ve done in the past. I’ve never invented anything before. It’s a very good learning experience because we’re learning with a greater purpose. The end goal of our invention is to save lives,” says Michael, a student who took up much

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design is to waterproof everything and put it in the water,” says Michael. And, because this is the team’s first real hands-on experience with engineering, there’s been a pretty steep learning curve.

Whatever the future of ORCA, the team members’ experiences have played a huge part in helping them shape their future career goals. Because the project included everything from brainstorming and engineering to business planning and marketing, some students have used the opportunity to consider entrepreneurial career choices they may not have before. As Julie, who assisted in the team’s communication responsibilities, puts it, “Being able to feel that our ideas are just as good as an adult’s ideas really makes us feel good. Maybe this could show even other places to put more value on student ideas and thoughts.”





When her two high school sons decided to start their own moving company, Mary Ellen Sheets took it upon herself to hand draw them a logo for their newspaper ads. No one could have guessed that 20-years later, the Lansingbased Two Men and a Truck has become the largest franchised moving company in the United States, with over 200 locations. Though things work on a much larger scale these days, Two Men and a Truck hasn’t lost its family touch. In fact, nowadays Mary Ellen, the company’s founder and CEO, still works alongside her two sons and daughter, each of whom have a leadership position within the company. So how did Two Men and a Truck grow to where it is now? We talked with Mary Ellen about her family’s history of entrepreneurship, a parent’s role, and what young people can learn from taking on their own business ventures.

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Tell us about the early days of Two Men and a Truck.

Why did your sons decide to start the company?

Brig & Jon started moving people with an old pickup truck when they were in high school to earn spending money. It was their idea.  At first they called themselves Men at Work.   If they got very busy, they would ask friends to help them.  They charged $25 an hour. They each got $10, and the extra money went towards gas and another ad in the Town Courier.  The first line in their ad was, “Two men and a truck...,” so that’s where the name came from.

I think the biggest thing for them was lots of spending money. They also got to be their own bosses working on their own schedule, which they loved!

What do you think they learned? The boys learned about hard work. They learned about the responsibility you have to a customer. When you promise to be there, you have to go, even if you would rather go to the beach with your friends. They also had the pride that they were the original “two men and a truck.” They still feel that way today.

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What happened after your sons left for school? After the boys went to college at Northern Michigan University, the calls kept coming! I was working full time for the State of Michigan, so every afternoon I would drive home and check the answering machine. One day there were twelve voicemails! I was shocked. I bought an old moving truck for $350. It was the only money I ever invested in the company. I hired two men and we became a “real” company. I didn’t know how to supervise my two employees, so I learned the hard way. Not knowing what I was doing never stopped me!

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Do you think the early days of running a business has had an impact on your sons’ lives? Yes, I’m sure Jon and Brig derived business smarts and confidence from seeing a company grow from the ground up. They understand every aspect of the company, most importantly, the customer always comes first. They also learned, early on, that being their friendliest, even humorous, selves could bring them nice tips. Their hard work and kindness were always rewarded!

Where do you think your family’s entrepreneurial bent came from? My father was an entrepreneur, although he never lived to see Two Men and a Truck. He owned bus lines in Lansing and Albion. We always had a lot of buses around our house, so to me, having trucks at the house didn’t seem odd. Even before my father, my grandfather was a farmer.  He would get up at 4 AM to take produce to the City Market in Lansing by a horse-drawn wagon. Farmers have a great work ethic--they had to back then to survive!

Do you remember doing anything entrepreneurial when you were younger? When I was young, I was always plotting to make money. I sold eggs, tomatoes, golf balls and even Cloverland Brand Salve (cures everything!) out of a little wagon, door to door. I won honors for my Girl Scout Cookie sales, and every summer my little brothers and I had a Kool-Aid stand on our front lot.

Judging by your own childhood, it’s no wonder why that rubbed off on your sons! Do you have any advice to young people--and parents--thinking of starting up a small business like you and your sons did? If you have a dream, go for it. Don’t listen to negative comments. Work on your dream every day, even if it’s only a very small step forward. And always give back to your community! If you’re a parent, teach your children to be polite, but to also be able to talk to adults with comfort. Encourage your children to start working early--kids can learn a lot about responsibility from those first jobs.





“It was sometimes very stressful, because there’s so much information that you have to have. At one point I wondered, is it really worth it? But it paid off and now I can say that it was definitely worth it.”

Many young people pursue entrepreneurship as a means of making some extra money while building business smarts, but did you know that being a young entrepreneur can also get your foot in the door to a higher education through scholarships and competition prizes? Mike Smith, owner and founder of Mike’s Digital Video, has used his experience as a young business owner to jump-start his pathway to higher education and a brighter future. For Mike, his entrepreneurial pathway has been all about building relationships and making connections. During his last two years in high school he decided to attend the Calhoun Area Career Center, where his teacher, Paul Fedele, encouraged him to pursue Michigan entrepreneurship opportunities. Mr. Fedele introduced Mike to the Generation E Institute (GenEI), a nonprofit organization centered around youth entrepreneurship education. With the help of Cheryl Peters, Generation E’s Executive Director, Mike put together a business plan to take to GenE’s Student Business Showcase. That’s when he came up with the idea of Mike’s Digital Videos, a company that creates personalized photo montages for special occasions like birthdays, graduations, wedding receptions, and more. According to Mike, creating a business plan wasn’t easy: “It was sometimes very

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stressful, because there’s so much information that you have to have. At one point I wondered, is it really worth it? But it paid off and now I can say that it was definitely worth it.” It really did pay off. At the GenEI Showcase, Mike won a total of $875 in prize money, which included a Consumer’s Energy Environmentally Friendly award for $25; an outstanding business award for $100; and a $750 scholarship to Miller College in Battle Creek. He also learned a great deal about his business. “GenEI helped me organize my business. I learned how to run it better, through the required business plan, and also how to communicate to people and attract customers, through the showcase,” Mike said. Mike’s experience at GenEI brought about opportunities even he couldn’t expect. “A week after the competition, Cheryl Peters had a dinner. The director of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek was there. Since Cheryl spoke very highly of me, the director wanted to meet me. After we met, I ended up getting an extra $2,500 scholarship through KCC.” Now Mike is looking forward to a future full of possibility. He plans to attend Kellogg Community College (KCC) for two

years before transferring to a four-year university to study business and technology. “I toured a lot of different colleges. When I toured Davenport University with the CACC I was very impressed with it, so I want to transfer there. While I’m continuing my education I plan to keep my business going. If the business grows, I might end up just focusing on that as a career, but getting a degree and continuing my education will definitely keep my options open.” Even the cost of higher education seems out of reach, there are always organizations like GenEI that can help channel your entrepreneurial thinking into a pathway for success. The more you’re willing to apply yourself and reach out to the resources across your community, the more you’ll find opportunities for scholarships, experience, and future success like Mike. As for his advice to young people looking to follow in his footsteps, Mike says the key is keeping a positive attitude and maintaining important relationships: “Don’t give up! Things will not always work when you want them to, but you will always rise above those setbacks. I also think it’s important to have good relationships with your teachers. If a teacher has respect for you, they’ll help you out and give you opportunities. Building relationships is always going to build your success!” Fall 2012


“I’ve Got a Better Idea” The ThumbWorks! School-to-School “I’ve Got a Better Idea” Challenge is an annual event that takes place in conjunction with National Entrepreneurship week that endeavors to stand apart from traditional youth entrepreneurship programs. How is it unique? By limiting the rules and letting creativity reign. The “I’ve Got a Better Idea” Challenge acts as a platform for young people to test out their ideas by developing new products and services that can help shape and improve the world, starting with their local communities. Participating high schools assemble their teams, develop their “better idea,” and then take part in the Challenge - a live 8-10 minute pitch before a panel of judges. Judges have included esteemed executives from around the region including the VP from a large marketing firm, an economic development business counselor, and the Director of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest.

Luke Engler, Peck Community Schools Principal, is thrilled with the opportunity that the Challenge has given his students. He adds, “This was a great experience and I just want to let folks know how much your contest has meant to the students and program as a whole. It has blossomed into something really cool over here in Peck Pirate country!”

This past year’s prizes have included a $1,500 entrepreneurship scholarship, a tour of Ford’s River Rouge Complex, and business start-up workshops with the region’s Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. But what’s more important than winning a prize or bragging rights for your school is the local stage the program builds for new ideas by connecting community members and organizations dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship on a regional level.

Students - if you want to create a competition like this in your school, talk to a teacher or your principal to find out how to get one started!

Teachers - if you’re interested in starting a school, district, or regionwide version of “I’ve Got a Better Idea challenge,” contact Marv Pichla, ThumbWorks! Director, at

This year’s grand prize winner was Peck Community Schools. Peck operates a student-driven business within the school. Students used their prize money to purchase inventory for several of their upcoming projects. Peck students design and sell a variety of clothing items for their local sports teams and their fans. The business also works actively in the community by donating to local fundraisers and special causes.

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by Matthew Hester, Teacher of R U Ready 4 BIZness Curriculum Entrepreneurship can be life-changing. It empowers you and builds confidence. It provides a vehicle for your dreams, aspirations, and hopes. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship education and opportunities are rarely offered to students with disabilities. Their achievements of overcoming great barriers are not always commended. R U Ready 4 BIZness Champion Lasha Mack-Bell did not allow her disabilities to stop her from becoming an entrepreneur. Lasha dreams of owning a restaurant or becoming a mechanic. She is being trained in both vocations at Drew Transition Center, a center-based program at Detroit Public Schools that teaches vocational skills to special needs students. Lasha is classified as cognitively impaired, yet in spite of negative stigmas and naysayers, she surpassed everyone’s expectations. Lasha explains how R U Ready 4 BIZness turned her life around and empowered her to take a stand by becoming a dynamic leader and CEO.

“The destiny of our children is everyone’s responsibility and we must all join together in directing their paths. We are not limited by our disabilities, setbacks or failures, but by the fear of our ability to achieve.” -Laketa Dumas, Founder of R U Ready 4 BIZness

What inspires you to be an entrepreneur?

What are your thoughts on the R U Ready 4 BIZness program?

I want to be in control of my own destiny. I want to be the boss! As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to come up with ideas and see them come to fruition. I love entrepreneurship. I have been able to discover many of my talents and skills, and it makes me feel good about myself. This was the first time in my life that I have been in an entrepreneurship class; it was so fun and exciting. We had to compete against one another in Team Challenges. Each team had a CEO, and I was the one for my team. It gave me the opportunity to experience what CEOs go through in their actual companies. That was tough because I was responsible for the failure or success of our company.

The program has given me the confidence to become a youth leader at St. Peters Holiness Church where I go to church. I am taking the skills I learned from this curriculum and showing my youth group how we can raise money.

How did you feel by the end of R U Ready 4 BIZness? When I received the R U Ready 4 BIZness Champion Award, I just cried. I had my own video tribute of how I led my team to success. The video highlighted all of my accomplishments as team leader and team player; it felt so good because no one has ever done anything like this for me in my entire life! To receive this award was the highest honor, and I truly felt like a champion. R U Ready 4 BIZness is the best program and curriculum that I have ever experienced. It empowers and brings out the best in everyone. I am looking forward to being in this program in the fall and competing against my teammates. My motto is, “Don’t count me out,” because I am just getting started!

What are your challenges being a special needs student? The biggest challenge is how people view me. Many people think I am incapable of doing something extraordinary; they see my disability, not what I can do. I am aware that I have challenges, but it does not stop from me pursuing my dreams or doing something great! I am not just a black woman with special needs, but also human being who wants to encourage people of all genders, nationalities, colors, and abilities to not allow society’s stereotypical views limit our dreams or keep us from pursuing them. People with disabilities do have something to contribute to the world; we just need the opportunity to showcase our strengths and someone who believes in us. 14 mybigidea



Prior to being exposed to R U Ready 4 BIZness, I was reluctant to take on leadership roles and was in a “shell.” I was not as confident in myself and afraid of failing. Today I am enjoying being a leader and have learned that failure teaches you lessons on how to improve. I believe in myself and I empower my teammates to believe in themselves. R U Ready 4 BIZness has taught me so much in four months. I cannot believe how much it has changed me. I am applying what I learned in every aspect of my life-- at school, home, and in my community.

Fall 2012

Building Bright Futures In STEM with Legos, Cameras and Games Astronaut. Game Designer. Doctor. Programmer. Engineer. Students take the first steps towards future careers From exploring outer space to creating digital universes of their own, many Lansing-area middle school students have vivid images of the bright futures they want for themselves. Academic strength in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) plays a key role in making those dreams come true. But something is happening to American students between middle school and college. Although U.S. fourth graders score well against international competition, they fall near the bottom or dead last among industrialized nations by the time they are 12th graders in mathematics and science. While the demand for technology professionals continues to grow, student interest and performance has declined. Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs, but businesses frequently voice concerns about the availability of STEM workers. The Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) improves performance in STEM subjects as well as in robotics, writing, and digital media by providing innovative courses where students can learn, explore, and create in a fun environment. These programs not only develop academic and leadership skills, but foster 21st century skills for success: confidence in their ability to compete professionally, working in teams, and creative problem solving.

Giving STEM a Boost In 2011, Microsoft commissioned a study to learn about when and why students decide to pursue careers in STEM. They learned the decision begins long before college. Nearly 4 in 5 STEM college students (78%) say that they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier, and about 1 in 5 (21%) decide in middle school or earlier. Additionally, more than half (57%) of STEM college students say that before going to college a teacher or class got them interested in a STEM pathway. Fall 2012

That’s where ITEC programs come in. Mixing technology and fun in equal parts, ITEC provides entertaining activity with math and science hidden inside, with no feeling of “school after school.” ITEC has partners in fourteen locations, including middle and high schools, churches, The Black Child & Family Institute, local branches of the YMCA of Lansing, and The Boys and Girls Clubs of Lansing and Flint.

building curiosity, problem-solving, and logic skills -- all important for engineers, scientists, and technology professionals.” Continued

“STEM fields are the playground of the imagination. It’s critical to engage learners at the K-12 level and foster a love of exploration that lasts a lifetime,” shared ITEC Executive Director Kirk Riley. “While students are building Lego robots, making movies, and creating video games, they are also

Sadie A. is 11-years old and attends ITEC courses at St. Stephens Church. She participated in the Lego Robotics summer camp and has big plans for making a difference.

Meet Sadie: ITEC Student and Future Scientist

Q: How many robots have you built? Which was your favorite? A: I’ve built three robots during my ITEC summer camp. My favorite was the airplane that when plugged in, the propeller would spin. Q: Have you taken other ITEC programs? What was your favorite one? A: I worked with all three main ITEC programs: Lego Robotics, Video Game Design, and Digital Media. I really like the digital media class because it is fun, and allows me to be creative. It’s my ideas and stories. I’ll continue taking ITEC classes since they are helping me learn more about technology. Q: Is learning about technology important? A: Yes. There is a lot of technology out there, and I want to keep learning about it when it changes. Q: What is your favorite subject in school? A: I really like science because it is used in just about everything. Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? A: I want to be a scientist. I want to study the ocean and work with the environment to help our planet.






Real Students, Real Fun

A sampling of student programs include: n Lego Robotics – Students learn the

basics of engineering and technology while building and controlling their own robots. They can take skills to the next level in ITEC’s advanced robotics class as well.

n Science of Game Design – In this

program, students learn the guiding principles of programming video games by designing their own games, as well as experiencing how art, logic, and storytelling come together in game design.

n Digital Media Arts – This media

design and publishing course pairs students with media artists to create a composition of their own ideas, interests, and passions. Working as a small group, teams create music videos, animations, a short movie or a documentary, and learn to shoot, edit, and publish their own work.

n Scratch – Students learn mathematical

and computational ideas while gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design when they create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.

The concepts and abilities gained through STEM education are vital throughout life. Mid-Michigan is positioned to be a global leader in the knowledge economy. With the job outlook high for skilled workers in technology fields, many are realizing that STEM education is key to prosperity in Michigan. ITEC is proud to play a strong role in the future of science and technology in Mid-Michigan. The Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works with students and families in the Greater Lansing area to build excitement for coursework and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. A collaborative partnership between community, business, education, and government, ITEC is making an impact in Lansing by developing the region’s talent. Learn more at Get Involved: Start a Robotics Club at your school! Students - To learn more about robotics clubs across Michigan, and how to start your own, visit www. today! You can also learn more about getting involved with international competitions for students by visiting, vexrobotics. com or!.

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Crash Course What is Entrepreneurial Thinking? Entrepreneurial thinking is about being creative, socially conscious, and selfconfident. It’s about seeking out and connecting with the right partners and resources for your goals, and being able to take calculated risks when necessary. Thinking entrepreneurially doesn’t necessarily mean starting up a business. It includes coming up with creative solutions to problems you face at home, in your community, at your school -- nearly anywhere! You can be entrepreneurial in your academics, your hobbies, your artistic passions, and nearly everything else you do! Do you have a cool idea for starting your own business but aren’t sure where to begin? Do you think you have what it takes to pursue your passion further but need a little help getting motivated? Take our crash course in entrepreneurial thinking to learn how you can apply creativity and ingenuity to your everyday life!

Refine your ideas No one gets everything right the first time. In fact, rethinking and retooling your ideas is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of entrepreneurial thinking. Ask yourself important questions about your idea’s who, what, and why. What issue or demand does your idea address? Who will it benefit? Why is it a better alternative to something that already exists? These kinds of questions will challenge you to refine, improve, and expand upon that initial spark into a full-fledged enterprise.

Find guidance While embarking down the path towards entrepreneurship, it’s important to connect with the right mentors. There is always more to learn about your community, your ideas, and yourself. Having someone alongside you

with the right know-how and connections can make the process easier and more fulfilling. This means talking with your parents, teachers, and the organizations in and around your community to find someone (or many people) to help guide you on your entrepreneurial path.

Create a plan Whether you’re creating a business, coming up with an awesome new invention, applying your artistic or scientific skills to a new problem, planning things out will always be beneficial. Try to think of the business plan as the blueprint for your path as an entrepreneur -- something that connects your current and future goals in a way that will give you a solid direction and keep you motivated.

Seek out opportunities Make no mistake, starting your own business is never a completely independent endeavor. You’ll need all the help you can get, and you’ll always want to be thinking about how to network with other entrepreneurs and community members. Luckily, between Michigan’s K-12 entrepreneurship programs, youth entrepreneurship competitions, and community support centers, there’s no shortage of opportunities to put your business to the test and start building connections. Start by reaching out to teachers and counselors to learn about the resources in your academic community. The more connections you make, the more resources you’ll be able to dip into when you need them!

Don’t fear failure Whatever you set out to accomplish, there are bound to be some setbacks. But even when things aren’t going your way it’s important not to feel discouraged. In many cases, what feels like an absolute failure can quickly become a new opportunity for innovation. Fall 2012

Staying positive and keeping ahead of the curve will help you see opportunities where others might only see roadblocks. Above all, don’t let the fear of failure discourage you from taking entrepreneurial risks. The stakes are much lower for young entrepreneurs, but the rewards can be just as big!

On Campus As you continue your entrepreneurial pursuits after high school and into college, consider looking into the resources available across Michigan’s universities and community colleges. MI2M’s website offers a growing list of campus resources, programs, incubators, and more! Find out which campuses are best suited to fuel your innovation, creativity, and business savvy. For more info on college entrepreneurship in this magazine, check out How to Be an Enterprising Scholar on page 5!

Incubators What is an incubator? Business incubators provide help to start-ups of all shapes. They offer assistance with everything from business basics to networking, marketing, and finding start-up funding. Incubators can be a place for you to connect with other young entrepreneurs in similar situations as well as prepare your products and materials to go out into the world. Luckily the state of Michigan has a vast array of business incubators, including many for young people - and some are free! Visit for more! Think your idea has what it takes? MI2M’s IGNITE Young Innovators Competition offers you the chance to put your entrepreneurial thinking to the test! The 2012 competition is all about creativity and ingenuity. We’re asking students to submit their innovative idea in a format of their choice--the more creative and impressive the better! Visit to learn more! Fall 2012

IGNITE Young Innovators Competition For our 4th Annual IGNITE Young Innovators competition, we’re once again highlighting the creativity and ingenuity of Michigan’s youth. But this year, we’re putting a creative twist on our traditional “written business plan” format by encouraging participants to submit their application materials in the creative format of their choosing! This can be anything from a video elevator pitch, to a Prezi presentation, to an audio recording - however they can best explain and illustrate their ideas! The creativity of their ideas as well as their method of delivery will be taken into account, so we are looking for out-of-the-box thinking.

9th-12th Grade Competition

6th-8th Grade Competition

Submission categories for the 9th-12th Grade Young Innovators Competition include: n New - or improved - product, idea, or service: For this general category we are looking for innovative and feasible products, ideas, or services. This can also include improvements upon existing products, ideas, or services. n Social solution: Winners in this category will offer a smart, feasible, and inspiring solution to a social problem, be it in a local community or beyond. n New App idea: Mobile device applications are one of the newest platforms that welcome innovative, life-improving solutions. We encourage participants to think of new and useful ideas that could potentially be developed into fullyfunctioning apps. For any category, we ask that applicants include an answer to the following question: How does your product, service, or idea provide an innovative solution to a problem in your community/city/ state/school?

We also want to hear from young people who have unique perspectives on entrepreneurship and innovation. This year, we want you to put your creativity at the forefront by presenting your answer to the “essay question” in an innovative way-- movie, documentary, podcast, Prezi, you name it! We are seeking submissions with a creative response to the following question:

If you could invent anything to improve your community, what would it be and why? This year’s competition includes nearly $10,000 in prizes! All submission materials are due November 18, 2012. Winners will be announced December of 2012. For full competition guidelines, and to learn how to submit your materials, visit today!





Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage

325 E. Grand River Ave, Suite 275 East Lansing, MI 48823

Your questions answered! “Am I an entrepreneur?” “I make bracelets for my friends and family and sell them at school. Someone told me this is ‘entrepreneurial,’ but I don’t think it is, since I don’t have a business or anything. Am I an entrepreneur?” You’re on your way to becoming an entrepreneur! You have a product (your bracelets) and a market (friends and family.) Being entrepreneurial can be as simple as that, and you can always pursue more opportunities to expand your activities into a full-fledged business. “I have an idea to improve the way our lunchroom serves lunches. There are always long lines and sometimes students don’t get to eat lunch. How do I tell someone about my idea - and am I an entrepreneur?” Yes! Improving your school by using innovative ideas is definitely an example of entrepreneurial thinking! The first step of sharing your idea might be writing up a detailed plan and sharing it with a friend. Ask them if they think your idea makes sense, and try to use their questions to refine and improve your plan.


Lansing, MI Permit NO. 240

“I want to start a new club at my school, but I have no idea where to start.” The first thing to do is to check with your principal or school administration to see if the club, or a similar club, already exists. If it does, you should get involved to help that club grow! If it doesn’t, find out what your school requires to start a new club--usually the process is pretty easy. You’ll also want to find a sponsor for your club, so look for an innovative teacher who’s interested in the club’s subject. From there, it’s all about getting the word out around your school to recruit members and hold your first inaugural meeting, where you can decide what activities to pursue and how the club will be structured - (leadership roles, how often you’ll meet, etc.) “I really like painting, drawing, and other types of art. Is there any way to tie that in with entrepreneurial thinking?” Absolutely! Combining the arts with entrepreneurship is actually something many professionals are pursuing today. Fields like graphic design, garment design, media production and others are all about combining your artistic ingenuity with entrepreneurial smarts. Another way to combine your artistic passion with entrepreneurial thinking is to create a business around your work! Look into designing your own t-shirts or selling your artwork to local coffee houses or friends and family.

My Big Idea Magazine Fall 2012  

Michigan's first and only magazine highlighting positive entrepreneurship and innovation news for Michigan youth. A copy for download is av...

My Big Idea Magazine Fall 2012  

Michigan's first and only magazine highlighting positive entrepreneurship and innovation news for Michigan youth. A copy for download is av...