Trenton is home to the next generation of successful young entrepreneurs, thanks to a program called Minding Our Business (MOB). These youngsters are bold, competitive and eager to unleash their products and services to a broad market.
MOB originated in 1997 as a community outreach program from Rider University’s College of Business Administration. The program seeks to empower local youth and the Greater Trenton community through the power of entrepreneurship. Young movers and shakers learn business skills in one of three programs. The Service Learning Program, a series of 12-week after-school sessions, provides hands-on instruction about starting and running a business to approximately 135 Trenton middle school students each spring. The Summer Program is an intensive 4-week initiative providing 35 low-income middle school students with entrepreneurship training and mentoring at Rider University each summer. Finally, the Advanced Program provides 10 months of business coaching for students needing additional training and support to make their businesses sustainable year-round.
This summer, the students entered Trenton’s version of Shark Tank. With a microphone in hand and a PowerPoint presentation on screen, these ambitious young entrepreneurs pitched their business plans in front of an inquisitive panel of judges. While some were battling nervousness and anxiety, you could hardly tell as they competed head to head for cash prizes. The latest competition was held at Mercer County Community College’s James Kearney Campus, where young future tycoons presented business plans for skin care items, hair products, and culinary delights.
The panel was made up of successful entrepreneurs and business and community leaders including CJ Meenan (Founder of Open for Business Networks), George Sowa (CEO of Greater Trenton), Qaysean Williams (Founder & CEO of Manikin LLC), Stephanie Landers (Director of Princeton University Keller Center “E-Labs”), Reverend Rupert Hall (Pastor of Turning Point United Methodist Church), Kathy McBride (Trenton City Councilwoman at Large and City Council President), and Professor Hayward (Professor at Mercer County Community College).
MOB’s programs are essentially the middle school version of an MBA. Students learn in-depth mathematics, economics, finances, and marketing. Throughout the year, students develop their own start-ups and participate in business plan competitions, flea markets, market fairs and more. It’s an interesting way to gain first-hand experience in the business world while also earning some money.
The program, started by serial entrepreneur and native Trentonian Kevin Wortham, founded his first business as a junior in college. He operated Cigar Nirvana, a production company, and a vending machine company, among others. Today he is a social entrepreneur making an impact in his hometown.
MOB helped several Trenton born entrepreneurs launch their own businesses such as fashion house Manikin LLC., Swans Brothers Cleaning, and Outdoor Fliks. Also, many alumni have gone on to launch their own accounting firms, nonprofits, hair salons, or have even become authors.
To learn more about Minding Our Business visit them online at http://minding-our-business.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MindingOurBusiness/. You can also contact their Executive Director, Kevin Wortham, at 609-731-9311.