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60% of teens want to launch their own businesses instead of working regular jobs

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Today's teens are thinking differently about their future employment, and many have decided they don't want to work for anyone else.

About 60% of teenagers are more interested in someday starting their own business instead of working a traditional job, according to a March 1 survey from Junior Achievement USA. The survey of 1,000 teens aged 13 to 17 was conducted online Dec. 16 to 22 by Wakefield Research.

Nearly 2 in 5 teens surveyed said their inspiration for entrepreneurship mostly comes from social media influencers and celebrities. The survey also found that 45% of teens want to learn the ropes from current business owners and 37% would be interested in programs at or after school teaching entrepreneurship.

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"I think that's very encouraging — it's not just a whim or a flight of fancy," said Ed Grocholski, chief marketing officer of Junior Achievement USA. "They literally are interested in delving deeper and learning how to do this the right way."

Teaching high school students about business

To encourage entrepreneurship, Junior Achievement offers programs that teach teens about owning and running a business, including the JA Company Program Pop-up.

The Company Program Pop-up is geared towards middle and high school students and helps them start thinking about planning and launching business ventures.

Juan Cruz, a teacher at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, has taught the program in class for a few years. He's seen first-hand how it engages students and shows them a viable career path regardless if they're going to college or not.

"This class shows them there are other opportunities where you can be just as successful," said Cruz.

Before taking Mr. Cruz's class, high school sophomore Milleana Santiago didn't know anything about entrepreneurship.

Juan Cruz, left, and his student Milleana Santiago, right, discuss entrepreneurship and their school's recent pop-up shop.

"I didn't even know what entrepreneurship was before coming to this program," said Santiago, adding that she also had a narrow view of business in general. In class she's learned that all businesses start with one thing — a good idea.

"I didn't know it could be as simple as thinking of a problem and thinking of different solutions and ways to make a profit off of that," she said.  

This year, the class put together their own small pop-up shop and students were responsible for marketing and selling items to their high school classmates. Santiago designed a Lawrence High School key chain and has even considered making a "Jibbitz" charm so that students could wear it on their Crocs shoes, a popular accessory at the high school.

When students see profits, Mr. Cruz also uses it as a moment to teach them some money management basics, such as saving a portion or reinvesting it to grow your business or better yourself.

Five challenges every entrepreneur faces when starting a company
Five challenges every entrepreneur faces when starting a company

The class has shaped Santiago's future goals. She plans to at least minor in business at a four-year college and would like to start a company in the future that helps kids.

"I knew that one day I wanted something that I could call my own and run, but as a side hustle," she said, adding that she didn't know how to make that happen. "Now I see how that's actually possible," she said.

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