Young Innovators – Part 3

Yesterday I was invited to listen to final presentations by student groups from Wayne High School’s New Tech (project based learning) program.  Students only had 3 1/2 weeks to conceive, research, and design an entity that would 1) support Fort Wayne’s Hispanic community, 2) support Fort Wayne itself, and 3) be centered around tourism and recreation.

Many presentations were very good, but three struck me as particularly innovative or entrepreneurial.

Food, family, fun.  One group suggested holding a monthly event at a downtown location where Hispanic families would gather to learn from a chef how to cook traditional cultural dishes.  I liked that the idea promotes family values and helps maintain awareness of historical cultural identity, and also liked that it also engaged the non-Hispanic community (the event would be open to the public to come and eat wonderful food from a different Hispanic country each month).  The idea is bootstrappable, and would bring people downtown – something we in Fort Wayne are promoting today.

Animals, leverage, tourism.  Another group designed a brand new Hispanic attraction to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, leveraging and growing that already-major tourist and recreational attraction.  The group selected open property at the zoo, designed their attraction to fit it, researched costs with the Zoo’s director (who recently had added a new African attraction), and even built a 3-D prototype model of the attraction!  I liked how the group thought BIG (the project would cost $7-8 million) and, like a successful entrepreneur, made a REALISTIC design – a detailed property design, a detailed set of the content (buildings, environments, animals) on the property, and a realistic view of the costs.

Theater, stage, tourism.  Another group created the concept for a theater which would be devoted to Hispanic theater.  They located their theater in a predominantly residential Hispanic neighborhood, but when questioned, indicated they would be willing to locate at another site closer to other recreational attractions (restaurants, bars, shopping)  if the focus was to bring in tourists.  I liked the fact that they were willing to consider changing their design to fit a broader target market.  I also liked the fact that their building and renovation costs were very realistic.  I didn’t tell them, but I had just met last week with an entrepreneur who is planning a similar renovation to create a theater and had established very similar costs.

Great job to these groups – and all of the rest!  Now for the punchline.  I said these were high school students, but I didn’t tell you that they were freshmen!  These ideas – that I consider VERY doable – came from students that were mostly 14 years old!  Let’s hear it for young entrepreneurs.