Sparking entrepreneurial thinking

Michigan 4-H Exploration Days session focused on getting participants to think in an entrepreneurial mindset.

Girls holding CBFG sign

What does the phrase entrepreneurial mindset mean? What does it mean to think like an entrepreneur? Participants in the Turning Ideas into Profits Session at Michigan 4-H Exploration Days had the opportunity to explore thinking like an entrepreneur. Youth selecting this option as their session during the three-day Michigan State University pre-college program took some time to discover possible products and services that might be viable business ideas.

Putting themselves in the entrepreneurial mindset involved activities to help them start pondering new possibilities by focusing on five major ways of thinking:

  1. Solving problems/creating solutions. Thinking of problems you or a target market might have and brainstorming ideas to provide solutions through the development of products or services.
  2. Meeting the wants and needs of the consumer. Generating lists of possible requirements that are not being addressed by mainstream providers. This often involves finding a niche market, a specific group of consumers with similar unsatisfied human desires that are not being met
  3. Developing innovations and inventions. Generating ideas for new products and services by thinking of new ways to improve existing products and services or developing something new.
  4. Optimizing on opportunities. Taking advantage of current trends or a shift in culture. It involves capitalizing on a current craze or creating a craze for a new or existing product.
  5. Building on skills, talents, and interests. Exploring personal traits that make you an adept individual and generating options for possible ways develop a business around them. It can also be turning things you enjoy doing into sellable products or useful services.

After an intensive research and development period during class time, participants engaged in developing marketing strategies including defining their target market, creating names, slogans and sales pitches, and describing the benefits of their product/service.

Some of the ideas that resulted included:

  • CBFG—Confidence Booster for Girls. This is an interactive reminder mechanism to boost confidence in young girls. Slogan: Confident Girls, Stronger Women
  • PINGS—a portable miniature ping pong table. Slogan: If you go to Pings, the pongs will be bouncing.
  • Gadget Robots—a company developing robots to do manual labor. Slogan: Better Robots Build Better Bridges Best.

PINGS GADGET ROBOT

After a pitch competition, participants toured the Hatch, a business incubator space designed for MSU student entrepreneurs ready to develop their business ideas. The Hatch is part of the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center (TIC), which provides access to capital investment, conference rooms, office equipment and business development support. They then had the opportunity to hear the stories of several of the current student entrepreneurs developing their business through the Hatch.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship defines the entrepreneurial mindset as the set of attitudes, skills and behaviors that students need to succeed academically, personally and professionally. These include initiative and self-direction, risk-taking, flexibility and adaptability, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving. Other definitions include the ability to see opportunities, marshal resources and create value.

The Michigan State University Program of Entrepreneurship and Innovations suggests, “There is no better way to prepare students for the world of the 21st century, whether they aspire to work for a large company, start their own business, go into academia or devote themselves to public service than through cultivating their skills in entrepreneurship.”

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