2011 IIEE Young Entrepreneurs Conference; Chicago High School Students Get a Taste of Entrepreneurship

The Fifth Annual Illinois Institute for Entrepreneurship Education (IIEE) Young Entrepreneurs’ Conference will take place April 28-29, 2011. The IIEE is hosting the event to inspire entrepreneurship among hundreds of inner-Chicago high school students. I spoke with the executive director of the conference, Ida Manning, to get her thoughts on the conference and why she is passionate about entrepreneurship.

Ida Manning became the executive director of the conference 5 years ago after being inspired to start the event. Successful entrepreneurship workshops held in Illinois prisons enlightened her to see that there was a lack of encouragement for young entrepreneurs in urban areas. “Working in prisons throughout Illinois there were a lot of entrepreneurs selling wrong products or services who didn’t realize they were entrepreneurs,” said Manning. Ida and others have inspired many high school students through the IIEE organization and the annual conferences. The IIEE was created in 1988 through the Illinois General Assembly.

There are varying level of competitions for young entrepreneurs of different levels of experience. Prizes for students and teams of students vary based on the competition and difficulty of the project and range from $200-600. The beginner level competitions start with more basic requirements that increase in difficulty to keep students working on their business ideas to comeback in future years to compete in the tougher competitions. There is everything from an idea competition to a full business plan competition where the competitors must have financial calculations and over $250 in sales.

Students are also encouraged to sell their own products at the event to staff and students. One student several years ago went as far as selling his secret recipe bottled lemonade to students, staff, hotel workers, and even went to nearby conferences to sell the lemonade. By the end of the conference the student had sold around $800 worth of lemonade.

A student of a previous conference was planning on dropping out of high school. The student had spent time working on a technology business. He won two competitions and gained the confidence needed to continue in school and work on his business. He went on to college, took his business to a national level and recently gained an angel investment to help his business continue to grow.

The skills, encouragement, and confidence that the students gain from the conference and the competitions lead many to go onto college and start their own businesses. Although many do not go on to start their own companies, the skills they learn can be applied to jobs and help many standout on college applications. Manning wants conferences and organizations similar to the IIEE to sprout up around the country and to start teaching entrepreneurship even earlier than the high school level.

While the IIEE supports high school entrepreneur, organizations also exist to support college entrepreneurs. The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization(CEO) has chapters in over 180 schools as well as National and regional conferences and National competitions.

For more information on the event, visit: http://cwd.me/preview/iiee/