The organizer of a contest for teen entrepreneurs in which a student gets a $20 loan to startup and run a viable eight-week business is hoping to have the annual challenge form part of the high school curriculum.
Keith Miller of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation said it was his dream to see the $20 Challenge become a reality in the school system within the next two years given the state of the economy and the role of the initiative in helping to prepare students to become more enterprising.
“We now need more creative people, we need innovators, we need people who are risk takers willing to take a calculated risk and put their money into business and willing to employ other people – enterprise driven people who can think for themselves,” said Miller, who acknowledged that not everyone would become an entrepreneur.
“My dream is that one day and hopefully it is one day soon, certainly by 2020, the $20 Challenge will be part of the school curriculum of every secondary school in Barbados. Just like we have sports day or speech day as part of the school calendar the $20 Challenge should be part of the school calendar,” he said.
Miller, who was speaking at the official launching ceremony of the eighth cycle of the challenge at the Pelican Village on Thursday, said he believed the implementation of the programme in the schools could be done through a private/public sector partnership.
“The end result is that we create a brand new generation of enterprising Barbadians,” he said.
But a frustrated Miller said too often politicians merely call for more entrepreneurs to be created, teachers are required to “make young people business-ready” without the necessary tools, while businesses complain that students are not ready for work.
“This is where the $20 Challenge comes in. It is private sector driven and it takes place within the school environment. It gives our young people a real-life experience of starting your own business, running your own business, making your own money, becoming independent of your parent,” he said.
This year, 14 schools have signed up for the challenge. Each student will be given a loan of $20 to start and operate a viable business for a maximum of eight weeks. The Challenge ends on December 31.
Participants are expected to donate a percentage of their earnings to a charity of their choice.
The students are judged in several areas including innovation and creativity, profits and social responsibility.
Acknowledging that some schools have already adopted the $20 Challenge in their curriculum since it started in 2011, Miller said “the rest of Barbados is now catching up but without the benefit of the integration into the schools.
“So to me that is another box ticked as to why the $20 Challenge should be in the curriculum throughout the schools… It can be done. It really can be done,” said Miller.
The BEF official could not say exactly what percentage of those involved in the challenge would have gone on to actually own their own business over the years.
But, explaining that the challenge had served as a “springboard” and a foundation for many students who have gone on to have success in several areas, Miller said he was also aware that many of them were attempting to start their own business.
At least seven businesses have been registered after making the debut in the contest, he said.
While the BEF had made contact with the former administration about having the $20 Challenge being made part of the secondary school curriculum, Chief Executive Officer of the BEF Celeste Foster said a meeting has already been held with Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland about the implementation process.
And pointing to the Junior Achievement programme in Jamaica, which is aimed at educating students about work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential and hands-on programmes, Foster said it was hoped that model would be used in implementing the $20 Challenge across the school system here.
“As soon as Barbados is ready we are ready to sit down with [policymakers] because the model has been tested and proven and we are ready to take off,” she said.
Two new initiatives have been added to the challenge this year – sponsorship of a teacher of a participating school to the Innovate Barbados conference in November, and lunch-and-learn workshops.
A new category is also to be introduced for the award ceremony, which is scheduled for March 2019. (MM)