May 12, 2015 1:30 pm

Crowdfunding, for Teens: The Enterprise Center Helps Local Youth Raise Capital

For the first time, a long-running program to foster youth entrepreneurship incorporates crowdfunding.

photoHand-knit baby apparel. Custom-designed t-shirts. Natural face wash. These are a few of the products currently being created and marketed by young people who participate in The Enterprise Center’s Executive Incubator, an after-school program giving local youths the skills and experience to launch their own businesses.

The program is an extension of a two-week summer camp for budding entrepreneurs that focuses on business fundamentals. Youths who develop the most promising business plans during the camp are accepted into the Executive Incubator.

Ciani Perry, 13, a resident of Yeadon, Pa., launched her venture, “Cici’s Knits,” as a result of the program.

Already a deft knitter who handmade gifts for family members and friends, Perry was encouraged by her father, an entrepreneur, to turn her hobby into a for-profit enterprise.

“It’s been a pretty good business idea,” said Perry, whose delicate, organic cotton baby booties and matching hats retail for $20. She also sells full-size scarves and accessories for adults. On top of homework and extracurriculars, Perry carves out at least an hour a day to knit.

This spring, to raise much-needed capital to grow their businesses, Perry and her peers in the Executive Incubator launched crowdfunding campaigns, which raised a total of $3,007. It was the first time that youth in the long-running program had experimented with crowdfunding.

“It was a lot harder than just putting your [campaign] up,” said Perry, who raised $741. “I’m a new business and I’m trying to get my name out there.”

According to Malyka Sankofa, who manages the Executive Incubator for The Enterprise Center, the crowdfunding campaign exposed youths to the challenges of raising capital. One of the lessons, she said, “is what you put in is what you get out.”

Sankofa explained that the program aims to expose as many young people as possible to the concept of entrepreneurship. Perry and her peers will continue to refine and invest in their businesses, picking up new skills along the way.

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“Kids need to have alternatives to be able to be successful,” Sankofa said.

“Our goal is to help build financial security and prosperity within our community to help people, particularly of African American descent, understand that business ownership is a viable option for them.”


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