Innovation Saturday for Los Angeles Youth

Together with our partners, NFTE Greater Los Angeles proposes to address youth unemployment in the African American and Latino communities, by creating a youth entrepreneurship and innovation conference for 300 youth, to be held at USC in partnership with USC Marshall’s Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. The event will reach under-served Los Angeles teens with the goal of promoting youth entrepreneurship in the face of high unemployment rates for African American and Latino youth in low-income neighborhoods. The conference will be held on Innovation Saturday in Fall 2013 in tandem with NFTE’s World Series of Innovation, a competition designed to challenge teens to solve real-world business problems posed by companies like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, JC Penney, Sean John, and others. Students who attend the conference will participate in sessions led by diverse LA entrepreneurs who will share the entrepreneurial lessons they have learned. Youth will also work with a team of established entrepreneurs and their fellow teens to launch a project to submit to the World Series of Innovation. Featured conference speakers will include young African American and Latino entrepreneurs and innovators in Los Angeles, introducing under-served LA youth to the growing community of diverse innovators in Los Angeles shaping the business climate in LA. The stories shared by entrepreneurs at this event will be documented on video, and shared with the broader Los Angeles community through a web-based library of entrepreneurial stories, in the model of Ted talks, thus affecting the wider LA community of youth seeking economic opportunities. This project can impact the income and employment outlook for these youth by introducing them to an alternative vision for generating income to support their life goals, inspiring them with the stories of entrepreneurs who reflect their communities, and sharing resources that can assist them on an entrepreneurial path.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

• NFTE Greater LA celebrated our 5th Anniversary in 2012. Since our launch, we have trained over 6,000 of our city’s hardest-to-reach students in our rigorous entrepreneurship curriculum. By the end of this school year, we will have reached a cumulative total of 7,800 local youth. (April 2012)

• Out of over 20,000 NFTE students across the country, NFTE Greater LA students have won our National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge three out of the past 4 years, winning both First and Second Place in 2011:

o First Place: Kalief Rollins “Phree Kountry Clothing” (2009)

o First Place: Hayley Hoverter “Sweet (dis)SOLVE” (2011)

o Second Place: Shomari Patterson “Shamazzle’s Dazzles” (2011)

o First Place: Vincent Quigg “Tech World” (2012)

• Our Advisory Board Chair Jeff Green was honored with NFTE’s Lowell B. Mason Volunteer of the Year Award for exemplary service. (April 2012)

• During 2012, NFTE Greater LA embarked on a Strategic Planning process for FY13-FY15 which included an assessment of our current situation, outreach to our communities for feedback, and the creation of strategic priorities as we move forward. This process culminated in a Strategic Planning Retreat, where participants weighed in on our initiatives and engaged in creating our case for support and picture of success. We look forward to utilizing this grander vision as a guide to building a more impactful organization in the years to come. In November, we were awarded a Strategic Scorecard Grant from the Taproot Foundation to better enable us to track our success. (2012)

• Due to an anchor gift from one of our funders, we were able to expand our program enrollment and build capacity by growing our NFTE Greater LA Team to 4 full-time staff, and 4 consultants, as well as embark on a research project to assess our impact on LA youth. (October 2012)

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our strategic partner, USC’s Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, as well as The American Dream Revised, will work with us on this project. Should we receive funding, we will seek support from Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), USC Society & Business Lab, UCLA Anderson’s Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the LA Chamber of Commerce, LA’s African-American Chamber, LA Hispanic Chamber, Amplify, IdeaLab, The Hub LA and NAWBO-LA to actualize our project.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

In order to measure the value of our conference for the youth involved, we will collect pre-and post-survey data, gathering feedback on what they learned from the conference and how useful they found it in informing them about entrepreneurship opportunities that are available to them. We will seek feedback from our conference presenters, as well as our partners, in order to document successes and gather feedback for future improvements. We will be able to monitor the use of our video library and encourage our community of supporters to promote the resource among their networks.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

There is an exciting groundswell of entrepreneurship and innovation in Los Angeles that must be extended to our city’s low income youth. Youth in Los Angeles who live in under-resourced neighborhoods suffer at the crossroads of two major crises affecting our city: the education crisis and the economic crisis. These crises disproportionately affect our city's African-American and Latino communities, who bear the burden of struggling schools and a depressed local economy, where better paying employment is difficult to find. When a segment of our population is cut off from full participation in the economy, the broader community suffers.

A youth innovation conference specifically targeting our low-income youth works at the intersection of these crises to provide a fresh outlook for youth confronted by their community’s challenges. By directing resources and opportunities toward these under-served youth, our goal is to educate and motivate students to adopt an entrepreneurial vision for their own future. This conference will introduce students to the skills necessary for entrepreneurship (project planning, future forecasting, opportunity recognition, financial planning, public speaking, negotiating), and our digital library of resources will serve as a lasting source of information to enable our youth to think beyond their environment and to pursue opportunities that help them realize their full potential.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In 2050, our vision is that self-employment for youth in low-income communities exists as a recognized and viable alternative to seeking a traditional job, and youth unemployment rates have declined significantly. Meaningful educational tools, seed funding, mentorship and role models are readily available to youth in low-income communities who wish to pursue an entrepreneurial path.