Alaska Journal | Startup Week 2017: Youth Entrepreneurship in Alaska

When I was a girl, my family had many businesses: my grandmother had a dress store and then later a jewelry store; my parents owned a candy store and rental units. I spent many days folding dresses, helping with minor repairs, and my favorite — happily eating candy in front of the store to tempt customers.

As I matured, I learned to handle cash and count back change; choose merchandise at the wholesale market and price it; and serve customers. I thought I was just helping out, but in reality I was learning, through experience, how to run a small business – setting income goals; innovating when business slows down; and understanding just how much time, thought, and effort was needed to make an enterprise successful.

These days, I work in an office while my kids spend their vacations at camp and play dates. They don’t have the same access to learn by experience and observation how to run a business or value a product or service. Fortunately, our community has “hands on” opportunities for youth to practice running their own businesses that are a lot more fun than spending your vacation working in mommy’s shop.

We all know that kids learn best by doing, but there are official studies to support the conclusion that kids exposed to entrepreneurial concepts at a young age are more likely to take the plunge for themselves. While each child that participates won’t make millions with the next yummy chummies, skills learned through these programs are the same skills that will help ensure success, both professionally and personally, later in life.

The author’s daughter, Charlotte Bittner, participates in Lemonade Day. (Photo/Courtesy/Lemonade Day Alaska)

For the last two years my daughter, Charlotte, has participated in Lemonade Day. This year had the highest turnout yet — more than 4,000 kids participated in communities from Anchorage to Shaktoolik.

Lemonade Day is a free program that gives youth the experience of developing and running their own business….

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