Igniting Sparks Through Entrepreneurship

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4-H faculty participated in a Lego project pitch challenge hosted by Louisiana Career Readiness Specialist Christina Hebert. From left are 4-H agents Charles Hebert, Suzanne Troxclair, Kayla Banta and Alisha Okoro. Photo by Christina Hebert

As the emcee called Dakota Rivas’ name at the 4-H University awards ceremony, he felt a surreal sense of pride and surprise. The Avoyelles Parish 4-H team cheered Dakota on as he walked across the stage to receive his medal.

Dakota had successfully pitched Sava Cards and Collectibles, his retro games and comics resale business, earlier that week at the 4-H University Tiger Tank contest. The “Shark Tank” inspired competition offered eighth through 12th graders the opportunity to present a business idea to a panel of “tigers.” The panel was made up of contest judges who have experience in entrepreneurship, finance and economic development.

Dakota first learned about the contest through his engineering and geometry teacher, Jean Andrus. Andrus encouraged Dakota to enter the contest by submitting a business plan and preparing a pitch.

The statewide competition is for youth interested in entrepreneurship. The goal is to help students cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset by challenging them to sharpen their creativity, problem-solving and public speaking skills. Youth can compete in the Ideation division if they have an idea for a business, or the Up and Running division if they already have a business. Many of the contest alumni have turned their 4-H projects into businesses.

Louisiana 4-H has partnered with the Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning and the Mott Foundation to provide training for 4-H agents and financial support for entrepreneurship programing through mini grants.

Professional development trainings are provided annually for faculty members who received the grants. The trainings feature various Lego challenges to promote innovation and creativity, along with case studies and an interactive business model simulation.

2022-2023 Mini Grant Highlights

East Carroll Parish

The East Carroll Parish 4-H Program partnered with the East Carroll Parish School Board and Jobs for America’s graduates to teach introductory entrepreneurship and business lessons to 56 students at Griffin Middle Academy. After completing the lessons, students were offered the opportunity to participate in the 4-H Entrepreneur Pitch Contest. They created prototypes, flyers and business plans. The final event was a pitch contest judged by local entrepreneurs and attended by teachers, principals and the school board president. This program taught teamwork, leadership, public speaking and how to prepare an effective persuasive presentation.

Ouachita Parish

Ouachita Parish 4-H hosted an Entrepreneurship Workshop where youth could create prototypes with various art supplies. Through this experience, the 18 participants were able to practice career readiness skills, such as problem-solving, financial management and public speaking.

Youth created prototypes and pitched their business ideas to their peers. Their products included a glow in the dark sea lamp, a “Sock ’em, Throw ’em” game, a trash pulley and a robot.

East Baton Rouge Parish

Eighty-five ninth graders participated in enrichment classes featuring lessons provided by National Lemonade Day and adapted for local youth. Participants also had an opportunity to compete at the annual Crawfish King Cook-Off in Baton Rouge.

East Baton Rouge Parish 4-H collaborated with Baton Rouge Big Buddy to provide this enrichment opportunity to three high schools. As part of the program, students crafted business plans for opening and operating lemonade stands on their campuses. This real-world application allowed them to delve into the intricacies of entrepreneurship, from conceptualization to execution.

The culmination of this venture took place at the annual Crawfish King Cook-Off hosted by Baton Rouge Big Buddy, where the winners from each school earned the opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial prowess. The champions were then invited to participate in the Louisiana 4-H Tiger Tank competition at 4-H University to test their business savviness on a broader stage. By nurturing the next generation of business leaders, the program has sown the seeds of innovation and enterprise, ensuring a brighter future for these young minds and the communities they will impact.

Northwest Region

The Northwest Region conducted an Ag Ambassador program which allowed 25 teens to participate in agricultural experiences and field trips to learn how to become advocates for agriculture and to explore agricultural careers. The group visited the Louisiana Capitol and various related industries. The goal of the program was to increase awareness about where food and fiber come from, the various agricultural sectors that are involved in production, research and extension programs that aim to support and sustain Louisiana agriculture, and academic opportunities.

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Evangeline 4-H Jr. Leadership members created a lemonade stand and sold lemonade at a community event after completing a series of entrepreneurship lessons. Photo by Kimberly Deville

Evangeline Parish

Thirty members of the Evangeline Parish Jr. Leadership Club worked throughout the school year to create a lemonade stand. Committees were formed to create a T-shirt design and logo. Participants worked through budgeting, recipe planning and designing their stand. A neighboring 4-H Jr. Leadership Club challenged them to a Battle of the Stands competition to see which could make more money for their charity. Profits went to the Special Olympics.

Allen Parish

The Allen Parish Junior Leadership Club learned how to start a business by creating a lemonade stand and brainstormed ideas of how to market homemade lemonade. Proceeds from the stand were donated to St. Jude.

Central Region

Sixteen youth from eight parishes were able to attend six agriculture-based tour days to learn more about careers and entrepreneurship within the agriculture industry. The group explored commodities and the value of agriculture to the economy of Louisiana and met many teachers, researchers and ag leaders. Tours included Sugar Day, LSU’s College of Agriculture, Nutrition and Horticulture Day, Fisheries and Forestry Day, the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research Station and the state Capitol to view lawmakers in action. Several students also participated in a job shadowing experience where they spent time on farms, in veterinary clinics and in local ag teachers' classrooms. This helped participants network with agricultural professionals, explore career opportunities and see the inner workings of agricultural businesses.

Madison Parish

The Madison Parish Healthy Youth Positive Energy (MAD HYPE) coalition is a collaborative effort between the Madison Parish Healthy Communities Coalition and the Madison Parish 4-H Program. The MAD HYPE students developed a snack sale and worked together to plan recipes, pricing and advertising. The city of Tallulah permitted the use of the land for the sale. The Southern University Ag Center also participated by offering educational materials about healthy eating to community members that participated. The students used a smoothie bike, which requires pedaling a bike to spin the blades of a blender, to make the smoothies to sell with healthy bagged snacks. Proceeds from the sale were donated back to the community.

Jefferson Parish

Twenty-nine high school students enrolled in the Jefferson Parish Public School Micro-Enterprise Entrepreneurship course were invited to a Career Day roundtable event where they spoke with community members about entrepreneurship and career readiness. Fifteen volunteers participated including small business owners and representatives from large corporations. In addition to roundtable conversations, youth also created an elevator pitch, completed a career path survey, learned to write post-Interview thank you cards and developed career goals.

3/5/2024 9:20:45 PM
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