Youth Innovation Forum inspires student entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it teaches kids to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills. According to Entrepreneur, teaching entrepreneurship fosters the skills to not only start companies, but also to think creatively and ambitiously. It also creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence and stimulates the economy. While not all schools have the capacity to teach entrepreneurship courses, finding opportunities in outside organizations can give students exposure to this type of skill development.

The Consortium of African American Organizations (CAAO) does this by hosting its annual Youth Innovation Forum, a program that teaches students team building, business awareness, financial literacy, and overall entrepreneurial skills. CAAO Youth Innovation Forum is an 8-week urban think tank that unleashes the potential of students by introducing them to the entrepreneurial mindset. Students who participate in the program for two or more years have a 100 percent high school graduation rate and 100 percent have graduated from college or trade school.

Team BamBoom presents at CAAO's Youth Innovation Forum.
Team BamBoom presents at CAAO’s Youth Innovation Forum.

Since September, students have been working in teams designing product concepts for the hair care and pharmaceutical industry. On December 3, 2016, two teams of students presented their business ideas. Bryan Glasco (pictured to the left holding the microphone), Promise Neighborhood resident and student at Campus International, participated in Youth Innovation Forum as part of Team BamBoom. The team, consisting of Bryan and five other students from Cleveland, designed and presented a pill they believe can help prevent cancer. Team BamBoom researched the concept of biomimicry a design process that looks to copy elements of nature to solve human problems and applied this idea to their product idea.

Over 270 students between the ages of 10 and 19 have graduated from the CAAO Youth Innovation. Some of these students have created product concepts years before the product was brought to market. This includes a Universal Electronic Binder, a Wet and dry snack container, a 3-D globe for the blind.

“The program maximizes the potential of each student by introducing them to the entrepreneurial mindset. In the program the youth improve their critical thinking, problem identification, and problem solving skills. Each year we take the students on field trips so they can learn about the different career opportunities that are available to them,” said William Holdipp Jr., executive director of CAAO Cleveland. “In this program we have touched the lives of Olympic Athletes, Peace Corp workers, and future industrial designers just to name a few. Many of the students who have been in this program have come back as volunteers, once they graduate from college/university and are ready to start their careers.”

The Consortium of African American Organizations (CAAO – pronounced K-O) is a nonprofit consulting organization which provides benefits and services to member organizations, their members and other individuals through its CAAO’s BESTT initiative. CAAO’s predecessor was the African American Business Consortium formed in 1993. CAAO is about harnessing and directing the power of thousands of black professionals in Northeast Ohio. CAAO serves as a conduit to existing resources as well as assists in the areas of entrepreneurial and professional development.