Independent Youth is a national organization focused on fostering entrepreneurship in young adults with a peer-to-peer approach. It was founded in 2010 by Tanya Hamilton who, driven by her passion for fostering entrepreneurship in young adults, has worked tirelessly to make Independent Youth one of the top youth entrepreneur networks in the country. Independent Youth regularly hosts TrepStart Day, their major event where their 21 featured young entrepreneurs visit a city to introduce and educate entrepreneurship to other teens. TrepStart Day is an amazing event and Atlanta is hosting the upcoming TrepStart Day on December 2, featuring Mike DeLazzer (Redbox co-founder) as the keynote speaker. Interested? Register to attend.
What’s the story of Independent Youth and TrepStart Day?
Independent Youth is about 4 years old. We’re a non-profit that focuses on empowering and educating youth through entrepreneurship using peer to peer teaching methods. We find the country’s top teen entrepreneurs between 12 to 21 years old and we integrate them into our program using different resources.
Our main event is TrepStart Day. We fly these kids in to the city hosting TrepStart Day and they focus on teaching specific areas of entrepreneurship to a group of high school students attending the event. Topics may include: efficient and effective marketing techniques or it could be more focused on creating a sustainable non-profit, how to scale a business or how to finance a business as a teen.
The TrepStart Day is a really fun and energetic day. It’s lively because not only do the kids come to town, but we also bring in key note speakers who founded a large national or international organization. We also have things like a photo booth and we have music, so it’s a lot of fun. The goal is to bring awareness to entrepreneurship through teens who are already doing it successfully.
What have been the most rewarding and difficult elements of growing Independent Youth?
The most rewarding part is building these relationships with my teens representing Independent Youth. seeing them over the years as they develop into stronger presenters and entrepreneurs and their enthusiasm to give back to the community. That’s the most rewarding: how they blossom as they get older, how enthusiastic they are giving back by sharing their experiences as successful teen entrepreneurs.
Our biggest challenge is as a non-profit and as an operating social enterprise, it’s about making sure you’re keeping your funding up with whatever you’re doing. We’ve been growing exponentially for the past few years as far as participants who we have in our program, so that can get a little difficult when the funding doesn’t match and is not growing as quickly as the teens coming to us. It’s interesting because we serve youth and mainly high school teachers bring their kids their high school students to our events, but our biggest challenge has been matching our funding with the interest we get from high school teachers and students. We’re doing a better job of that as we get more corporate sponsors and corporations looking at us, but that’s been the biggest struggle. We don’t like to turn anybody away just because they cannot afford to attend. We find a way for them to attend, but that can be a struggle.
What attracted you to Atlanta for TrepStart Day?
There’s a great level of entrepreneurial spirit existing in Atlanta. I really like the energy that comes from the entrepreneurial community. They are really supportive and we’ve had people from Atlanta support our program from day one–reaching out and asking how they can help. Because this city understands the importance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education (and they support it), it’s somewhere we definitely want to be. Also, 5 of the 21 (our largest percentage) teen entrepreneurs who represent Independent Youth currently live in Atlanta. We weren’t thinking about that when we chose Atlanta, but it’s really cool to see.
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The Author: Kristine Santos. Entrepreneur. Anthropologist. Writer. Runs social media and blogging for Atlanta-based startup PEAR’d, a virtual collaboration ecosystem for entrepreneurs. A vegetarian who’s learning how to sew and wants to know all about your startup. Let’s talk on Twitter@PEARdUP