An Early Start for Entrepreneurs
“Ultimately, we’d like to see these kids go on to college and complete this path of entrepreneurial education.”
— Laura Maczka
NFTE-Greater Dallas Director
Entrepreneurship often starts with a single moment’s inspiration. But turning that moment into success in business requires certain knowledge and skills. And a 2010 study by Cambridge, Mass.-based Monitor found that Texas lags behind other states in entrepreneurial education.
Teaching these skills is the mission of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). NFTE’s Greater Dallas chapter, the only one in Texas, partners with the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to offer entrepreneurship education to students at 27 middle and high school campuses. Ninety-two percent of the kids in the NFTE-Greater Dallas program are from low-income families.
“Going to work for a company for the rest of your life is pretty much not a reality anymore,” says Laura Maczka, NFTE-Greater Dallas director. “Our entire purpose is to show kids the relevance of graduating from high school and changing your living situation through education and work.”
In the NFTE-Greater Dallas curriculum, every student must develop a business idea and write and defend a business plan. The organization provides seed capital to some participants and provides more funds for selected student businesses at the school year’s end.
In addition to the regular curriculum, NFTE-Greater Dallas offers two-week “BizCamps” — crash courses in entrepreneurialism — to students from all school districts in the region. Students who successfully complete the camp can enter business-plan competitions in the ensuing school year.
NFTE-Greater Dallas trains DISD teachers to offer the program, which currently has about 2,000 participants. In addition to its educational goals, Maczka says NFTE-Greater Dallas wants the class offerings to become part of the student culture at DISD campuses.
“We’re trying to become that sought-after class that people know about, and create a pathway for those kids, starting in middle school,” she says. “Ultimately, we’d like to see these kids go on to college and complete this path of entrepreneurial education.” FN