Earlier this month in Atlanta, Georgia, the best and brightest entrepreneurs of our age gathered to push forward on 21st century developments like pharmaceutical delivery to homebound patients, international mentoring networks and clothing without harsh chemicals.
Oh, and did we mention the best and brightest are in high school? If their energy and ideas are any indication, they’ll be at the top of the entrepreneurial game in the coming years.
The event was the Goizueta Youth Leadership Summit, presented by 21st Century Leaders, the Emory Goizueta Business School and the Sage Foundation. It gathered more than 80 high school students from across Georgia for a fun, educational weekend to hone their business skills. Plus, the weekend had a strong focus on social entrepreneurship: using business to do good in the world.
On Friday, February 3, also known as the event’s “Sage Day,” the students first heard from keynote speaker Blake Canterbury. As the founder of Purposity, which helps people identify and meet needs in their immediate community, Blake was able to share his story of personal and business growth in the social entrepreneurship space. He gave four key points to the students:
Become an expert. Pick one or two things to specialize in, Blake said, rather than trying to be great at everything.
Connect with a mentor. Blake’s advice: “Find whoever you want to be, and listen to them.”
Find your purpose. To do this, Blake suggested something that prompted a few uncomfortable laughs from the young audience. “Write your eulogy,” he said. It’s a little creepy, he admitted, but, “The earlier you can write this and live in line with your purpose, the better you’ll live your life right now.”
Don’t get distracted. In an age of social media and endless entertainment, the world really belongs to those who can focus. Keep your eyes on the prize.
His words definitely made an impact on the students. Willie Daniely III, from Colonial Hills Christian School, said Blake was his favorite speaker. “His inspirational story inspired me to take risks and not be complacent.” Tony Nguyen, a student at Fayette County High School, agreed. He said, “Blake’s story hit home for me. His passion was helping others, which is the same as myself. He is the definition of success in my book because he does what he loves and loves what he does.”
After the keynote, the students progressed to lunch and a few interactive stations. They worked on public speaking with Debra Triplett from Toastmasters; mindfulness with clinical psychologist Dr. Maggie Johnson; and staying calm and creative on stage with improv actor Emily Riley Russell from Whole World Theater.
Using all their new information and skills, the students split up into groups to create their own idea for a social enterprise. They brainstormed and put together thorough pitches for a panel of volunteer judges from Sage—the top groups went through a second round of presentations to all their peers, too. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other students and develop a business pitch,” said Skylar Nicholson, a student at Central Education Center. “It was a huge learning experience for me, and I gained some very valuable leadership skills.”
The winning group pitched a business idea called Generation Doctor, or GDoc, that would deliver pharmaceuticals to rural or homebound patients via high-tech drones. They thought through their funding model, security issues, and more—all with a keen eye on making sure the business served those in need.
As Raina Parikh, a student at Johns Creek High School said, “I’ve always believed businesses can be both profitable and improve their communities.” With Sage’s help, this leadership summit helped show her and her fellow students just how true that is.