Take on an entrepreneurial perspective to 4-H livestock projects

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset helps 4-H youth succeed at summer fairs and in other real-world settings later on in life.

While many youth enter projects into county fairs because of a love of animals, sewing or gardening, some young innovators are starting to see the benefits of applying an entrepreneurial dimension to their existing projects. An entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk to try something new; this is often someone in business, but entrepreneurial perspectives can be applied to any line of work. When teenagers learn how to use entrepreneurial frameworks for their 4-H projects, they learn skills they can use no matter their career choice.

Livestock projects are common with Michigan 4-H youth and afford many opportunities for entrepreneurial lessons. One area that can be improved by using this perspective is the advertising and promotion of market animals. First, youth identify their target market: the population of consumers most likely to buy their product. Within the scope of livestock projects, this often includes businesses involved with farming (such as veterinarians, feed stores, farm supply stores and welding/mechanical shops), but can also extend to individuals who have relationships with 4-H families (friends, family and supporters of the 4-H organization).

Once a 4-H member has identified their target market, they can tailor their advertising message to that population. They highlight their product and its features, what makes it different from other available products, and state when the product will be available (most animals will be sold at the fair’s market auction). This promotion may be sent out as a letter or flyer to prospective buyers, or the youth might be more creative, visiting the buyers in person or using social media.

At the time of sale, 4-H members practice their customer service skills by building relationships with their buyers. Often this includes a small token of appreciation, a picture with their buyer and animal, and always a thank-you note to express gratitude for their support. These practices help the youth understand the importance of interacting with their customers and how making a connection can lead to future sales.

Many youth involved in livestock projects are interested in animal science and the associated careers, but involvement in 4-H animal science projects can expand their learning in many ways. Practicing entrepreneurial skills such as target marketing and customer service skills helps prepare these youth for their futures, no matter which career path they choose.

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