MBA Students Give Inner-City Youths Business Training
NEW YORK — 'I WOULD like a good return on my investment."That expectation does not come, as it usually does, from a banker, broker, stockholder, or chief executive. It comes from Aisha Outlaw, a senior at the A. Philip Randolph High School in the Bronx. Miss Outlaw was one of 37 highly motivated and competitively chosen inner-city high school students from all over New York who took part in a Columbia University Business School summer course on entrepreneurship. The students learned the nuts and bolts of running small businesses and even turned in, as term papers, plans for enterprises they would like to establish. They are members of Columbia's Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP). Similar programs are being offered at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley. Support for YEP, at $300,000 a year for each university, is being given by the Milken Family Trust. Of prime importance to YEP's success is the pairing of each aspiring entrepreneur with an MBA candidate from the Columbia Business School who acts as a mentor year-round. "Most of these young men and women cannot wait, after more education and experience, to launch their own businesses," says Jeffery Ott, assistant director of Columbia's Community Collaboration project and YEP director on that campus. As basic training, the students receive instruction in marketing, finance, and accounting. They are also introduced to the business realities of how to make a profit and avoid losses. Asked what she expects from her YEP training, Outlaw says: "Quite simply, to learn how to open up and run my own accounting firm." With YEP's underpinning and a 90 percent average grade in her high school accounting courses, she is on her way toward that goal, Mr. Ott says. The Young Entrepreneurs Program is part of the University-Community Outreach project of the Milken Institute for Job and Capital Formation. YEP also works with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship to Handicapped and Disadvantaged Youth. With economic literacy as one of its main objectives, the foundation has trained 2,000 "at risk" teenagers in the New York metropolitan area since its founding in 1987. With the help of foundation teachers at Berkeley, Columbia, and Wharton, former YEP st udents have started 150 businesses. OLUMBIA Business School's collaboration with the community is a long-awaited public service to Harlem, one of the university's immediate neighbors. From Morningside Drive, Columbia's eastern boundary, one looks out on a section of New York in need of hundreds of new entrepreneurs. The summer course even gave the entrepreneurs-in-training some experience in buying and selling. They were "capitalized" at $50 each to buy merchandise in the city's wholesale districts and do sidewalk vending in Greenwich Village and on campus. Instructors stressed the need for students to watch the bottom line on the balance sheet that tells them they are making a profit, breaking even, or losing money. Jose Molina, a senior at the highly regarded Bronx High School of Science, says the course gave him more confidence. He plans to major in industrial engineering and business in college. Meanwhile, Camelia Pierre of Nazareth Regional High School in Brooklyn hopes to open a beauty salon. "I got the knowledge to go forward" from the entrepreneur program, she says. Young Entrepreneurs is the first project in Columbia's Community Collaboration - a good-neighbor effort to foster community economic development through small-business technical assistance, education, and other joint programs between the university and its adjacent neighborhoods. "The students are about ready to begin the start-up of a very small business when they finish summer entrepreneur study here," Ott says, "and we have students who have done it. A group of girls sold stockings in their high school, and a photographer - a very good one, who took pictures more or less for the fun of it - now charges a good fee, thanks to entrepreneur study." The dean of the Columbia Business School, Meyer Feldberg, says the school "is vitally committed to making the program a continuing success."