Richmond Teens Launch Start-Ups Through ‘Junior Founders’ Initiative | Community Idea Stations

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Richmond Teens Launch Start-Ups Through ‘Junior Founders’ Initiative

This Spring, a landscaping company, clothing lines and several other startups launched in Richmond, Virginia. The owners are teenagers who were guided by the Junior Founder’s Club. For Virginia Currents, WCVE’s Lauren Francis has more on the initiative and one business that combines sports and studying.

Transcript:

Corey Stuckey is a rising sophomore. His business proposal was inspired by basketball and his brother. He was a top prospect in high school, then his low GPA almost kept him from his dream school, Duke.

Corey Stuckey: So he got mad, he got tutored and stuff and still ended up going to Duke. But my thing was -- our thing was --  is that education still matters no matter what you do.

Stuckey started his “tutoring gym” Collateral Sports at the Southside Community Center where he noticed empty rooms during basketball practice. He tested the model with his teammates by starting practice early and doing homework for the first hour. 

Stuckey: My goal is not to make you the best athlete in the world, it’s to make you the best scholar athlete in the world.

To get to this point, Stuckey participated in the first cycle of the Junior Founders Club, the thirteen-week program created by Kendall Morris to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in high schoolers.

Kendall Morris: We're going to need people who are creative, who are critical thinkers, who are problem solvers, who can collaborate, who can, you know, lead, who can also follow; who can solve messy problems that don't have really clear, linear, paths to answers.

In the application process, hopeful founders shared what challenges they’ve overcome and what excites them to try and explore something new.

Morris: They did not have to be, you know, straight A students. What we were really looking for were people who were motivated, who were self starters and could seek out new opportunities to grow and develop themselves.

Local business owners served as mentors and facilitators at the weekly sessions helping youth learn about marketing, branding and problem solving. Montrell Brown is one of the mentors. He launched his own landscaping business two years out of high school. He says he could have benefited from a Junior Founders Club when he was a teen.

Montrell Brown: First day I went, the kids was building their website, making their company t-shirts and their business cards.  It took me awhile to get all of that. It took me three years to get my website and with my business cards I just threw my name and business name on there, like I ain’t know anything. They just giving the kids so much, they giving the kids a lot to start off with. 

With Collateral Sports off the ground, 15-year-old Stuckey sees about 20-40 students ages 9-18 at his gym. With the help of community center staff, he tutors and leads activities. Members pay $10 a week for access.

Stuckey: So basically you pay $10 to come to the gym do all the activities and have the tutoring for three days out of the week, which is Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Stuckey’s saving to reinvest in his business and solve one of his biggest challenges

Stuckey: One of my main struggles right now is transportation. Basically getting kids down to the gym without discouraging them from not being able to come. So I'm trying to get after school buses or even just school buses to drop kids off at my gym so they don't have to worry about getting a parent or asking for rides.

Morris says entrepreneurs are shaped by these kinds of obstacles. Through Junior Founders Club, she hopes to show Richmond-area teens that start-ups can happen in any community.

Morris: It's not something far away and distant that only certain people get to do. It's something that our neighbors are doing, it's something that anyone can do and if you take steps and actions then you can move forward on a path to real true ownership.

Following the first cohort of Junior Founders, the program will be partnering with NextUp RVA at Henderson Middle School. Next Fall, Morris will expand the program to include kids from across the country. For Virginia Currents, I’m Lauren Francis, WCVE News.