Forward Thinking Initiatives (FTI), a Tampa based non-profit that teaches youth entrepreneurship and innovation is partnering with The St. Petersburg Greenhouse, a collaboration between the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of St. Petersburg to help foster entrepreneurship in the community. FTI and the Greenhouse are set to launch the first, youth entrepreneurship academy in 2014.
This is a dream come true for FTI’s founder, Debra Campbell, who has been teaching entrepreneurship to teens for the past nine years. The academy will build career skills for teens in middle and high school, while teaching entrepreneurship, innovation and product development, hopefully launching student-operated businesses.
The goal is to bring a top quality educational experience to all kids, whether they are gifted, at-risk, college bound or not on a “traditional” path to success. The FTI academy will be part of the Greenhouse, the city’s small business development center but will have a separate location or locations downtown depending upon the theme of the program.
Forward Thinking Initiatives began nine years ago as a concept to;
1) Enhance the region’s workforce quality by starting instruction at a younger age (middle school and high school),
2) Get kids to feel a connection to their community so that they are committed to staying in our region and helping to better it.
The deliverable is a high quality, high fun, project-based curriculum to teach kids how to start and run their own company. As part of this concept, FTI also identified the need for soft skills such as creative and critical thinking, innovation and leadership, and has made those skills integral to its curriculum. What have emerged are unique, after school enrichment programs and intensive, summer camps that have already had an impact. Currently, some FTI graduates are running their own businesses, have launched multiple businesses, have hired other kids and have come back to the programs in order to serve as interns.
Additionally, as Forward Thinking Initiatives’ programs have grown, so have their community partners. Some of FTI’s recent partners include the St. Petersberg Area Chamber of Commerce, Coordinated Child Care of Pinellas, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Department of Child and Family Services, The Hillsborough Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the Tampa Bay Skating Academy, the Derrick Brooks Camp for Champs, Tampa Workforce Board and Eckerd Community Alternative and TedX Youth Tampa Bay.
Teaching entrepreneurship to teens should have real economic development impact on Tampa Bay’s future. For more information about Forward Thinking Initiatives, you can check out their website at www.forwardthinkinginitiatives.com or call 813 760-7860.