Young Entrepreneurs Society (2.0) was founded in Greenbelt, Maryland in 2022. We trace our roots to the 27 towns of the rural Franklin County and North Quabbin region of Western Massachusetts, where YES (1.0) served thousands of teens and young adults between 1998 and 2013. Both share a founder, Timothy Mitchell, who developed YES while serving as a community organizer at the Orange Revitalization Partnership. Orange, MA (pop. 7,500) is at the heart of the North Quabbin region and its nine towns, which are among the poorest and most isolated in the state.
After teens there identified the lack of jobs (and transportation to jobs) as their most pressing problems, YES created the Odd Job Squad to help them earn money and gain work and business experience by doing odd jobs for residents and businesses. The Squad later expanded to other towns and beyond, including the Bahamas, using the Squad’s custom software and organizer’s manual that they licensed from YES.
To help youth develop and launch other businesses, YES created an entrepreneurship class called BizVenture! YES partnered with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to train and certify teachers to deliver NFTE’s curricula as part of BizVenture! classes held in school, after school, and during the summer at locations across 27 towns. Other Venture! programs followed. They included GirlVenture! (for girls only); TechVenture! (teaching teens how to build and sell computers); and ArtVenture! (teaching teen musicians how to market their music).
To give BizVenture! alumni hands-on business experience, YES created a 140-hour social enterprise training program known as the Co-op BizTeam. The BizTeam’s business plan—for a cyber cafe and copy/fax/UPS-FedEx shop—won first prize and $2,000 in a National 4H Council/USDA Cooperative Business Plan Competition. Their plan also helped YES get a $75,000 mortgage to purchase and renovate two blighted buildings in Orange’s historic district, where a year later both the Teen Cyber Cafe and YES BizCenter opened their doors to the public.
More social ventures followed, some successful, others short-lived: PhilHarmonix (a full-service recording studio and rehearsal space), BLINQ.info (a regional web portal); Tapestry Teens (a reproductive health infomercial and website); North Quabbin Young Leaders’ Council (a teen-led leadership group that tackled issues affecting local youth); QuabbinTeens (a web portal for local teens); TechACCESS (a web portal for people with disabilities); YouthTube (a class for teens to learn digital storytelling skills, in part to profile area business owners); and the North Quabbin Time Bank (neighbors who helped neighbors with odd jobs using time as a currency).
Other YES programs included BizQuiz (an annual online business knowledge contest), Learn 2 Earn (a job readiness class); MoneySmart! (a personal finance class), and YES-U-Can! (an all-in-one class for youth with disabilities). And thanks to a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, YES developed, piloted, and ran its annual BizVenture! Series, a calendar of entrepreneurship activities, classes, and contests for youth across 50 towns across, two counties, and 1,270 square miles.
After relocating to Greenbelt in 2013, Mr. Mitchell was invited by Carolyn Davis, a fellow member of the Greenbelt Cooperative Incubator, to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship to members of her after-school Earth Squad program serving Springhill Lake Elementary School students. They later developed and piloted the BizKidz program in 2016-2017 that helped Squad members successfully plan and launch a cooperative business, BizKidz Smoothies. The BizKidz made and sold hundreds of bicycle-blended smoothies at community events that netted a profit of over $300 which they used to fund field trips. BizKidz was made possible with grants from Greenbelt Community Foundation and Shareable, with in-kind support from Proteus Bicycles, Community Forklift, and Greenbelt Cooperative Supermarket & Pharmacy.
Mr. Mitchell met Anthony Hamm at Springhill Lake Recreation Center. Mr. Hamm, , a fellow NFTE teacher, directs the Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP) for The Pathways Schools, a nonprofit that helps students with special needs graduate from high school. In 2017 and 2018, and again in 2022, Mr. Hamm invited Mr. Mitchell to co-facilitate YEP classes and to work one-on-one with students participating in Pathways’ Pre-Employment Program and Career and College Readiness Program. These activities led to the founding of YES to provide more such programming to children and teens in the Greenbelt, Maryland area.