Gwinnett County programs grow young entrepreneurs

Twins DeAndre and Darion Nelson showed talent for anticipating chart-topping tunes, getting kids onto the dance floor with their deejaying skills and pulling in hundreds of patrons to their teen parties. But what they thought was a successful hobby turned out to be a financial drain.

“We’d have all these people at the parties and be counting all this money at the end,” said DeAndre Nelson. “After we looked at how much we put into it, we realized we were losing money."

Unable to fit entrepreneur classes into their schedule, the South Gwinnett High students joined Youth Entrepreneurs, an after-school club that condensed those lessons. The national nonprofit has programs in Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb counties as well as Atlanta Public Schools — it’s largest footprint.

“We’re not a sit-and-get kind of program,” said Ana Rector, area director for Youth Entrepreneurs East Region. “All learning is hands-on instead of a lecture format.”

In a “Karate Kid” kind of way, some of the 26 activities in the year-long curriculum don’t at first appear to have much to do with the lesson. But once one of the core values (responsibility, being principled, seeking knowledge, respecting rights and freedoms of others, finding fulfillment in your work, making your own opportunities, exercising sound judgment or creating a win-win focus) is applied to the exercise, a light bulb goes off.

Kyle Jones