This Philly nonprofit is teaching social entrepreneurship to middle schoolers - Generocity Philly

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Nov. 20, 2017 11:58 am

This Philly nonprofit is teaching social entrepreneurship to middle schoolers

Because for cofounder Michelle Julet, it's never too early to start opening kids up to the possibilities of starting their own business, while also emphasizing qualities such as compassion, courage and confidence.

Brittany Nettles teaching foundation building at The Business of Doing Good's workshop.

(Courtesy photo)

The Business of Doing Good (BODOG) wants young people to think about how they can be socially responsible at the same time as they think about starting their own businesses.

Because as one student put it at the nonprofit’s one-day social entrepreneurship workshop yesterday at Arcweb Technologies, “a lot of middle schoolers are irresponsible.”

Granted, middle school is a time when most kids should be more concerned with getting their homework done and having fun with friends than launching a business, but Michelle Julet, cofounder of the Philly- and Boston-based organization, started in 2015 with the idea that it’s never too early to expose kids to what opportunities are out there: She founded BODOG with her husband, Tim, because she wanted to start teaching her daughter entrepreneurial skills but in the context of doing good.

Yesterday’s event included four sessions for the seven middle school students to learn different social entrepreneurship skills from adults who make a living out of them:

  • A foundation-building workshop — complete with gumdrops and toothpicks — taught by Brittany Nettles, a former food blogger and small business owner who now works in real estate, that emphasized how important it is for kids to think about where they want to start
  • A case-study workshop taught by Prasanna Krishnan, cofounder of edtech startup SmartyPal, where Krishnan got feedback on a new social awareness program she started recently called Kids Make It Right
  • A smartphone app workshop taught by Mike Balcerzak, a UI/UX designer at Arcweb, where kids came up with features for an anti-bullying app
  • A storytelling workshop taught by Gianna Colantuono, intern for BODOG’s Philly program and a sophomore community development major at Temple University, where kids worked together to construct a visual image out of cut-up pieces of paper

For Ashley Robinson, the mother of one of the participating students, Antoine, the idea of introducing social impact into entrepreneurship was especially valuable during for her son now, when he’s been having ideas for his own future business.

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Prasanna Krishnan taking feedback on her social awareness program, Kids Make It Right. (Photo by Albert Hong)

Prasanna Krishnan taking feedback on her social awareness program, Kids Make It Right. (Photo by Albert Hong)

“I want him to think about not only himself but other people,” Robinson said. “Especially with him being an only child, they can think that everything comes to them so easily [but] there are people out there who don’t have what you have. I love that they teach them compassion.”

BODOG’s regular programming takes place every summer for one week in Boston and Philly, with attendance hovering around 14 students every year, Julet said. This coming summer, they’ll also be piloting an advanced bootcamp in Boston for kids who’ve taken the first iteration, and a recent $20,000 grant is helping BODOG expand into New York.

An idea for an anti-bullying app. (Photo by Albert Hong)

An idea for an anti-bullying app. (Photo by Albert Hong)

But sporadic workshop events like yesterday’s, with themes like sports or food entrepreneurship is an idea that Julet said she and the board is also considering. The goal for 2018 is to get more teachers and partners on board with BODOG’s mission to achieve this.

Indeed, one of the students yesterday mentioned she’d like to see a BODOG event every month. It’s these kinds of suggestions and feedback that even had Julet and her board consider bringing kids into the org via a “kids board” of sorts.

It would be a fitting idea, considering that for Julet, BODOG has been more about inspiring kids to think and act on what they believe, rather than instilling solely technical entrepreneur skills.

“What I’m hearing from kids and parents is that what they’re really taking away from this is courage and confidence,” she said. “That’s true for everyone — you want to feel empowered and inspired.”

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