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Independent Youth

Tanya Hamilton is passionate about two things: Entrepreneurship and working with youth. So it was only natural that she would start her own organization. The more Tanya brainstormed, the more she realized that there weren’t really any organizations that focused on teaching Entrepreneurial skills to young people of all backgrounds. Even in schools, Entrepreneurial skills were rarely taught or mentioned. Tanya thinks that this is due to lack of funding and a mindset in school administrators that entrepreneurship isn’t as important as other programs. But thanks to Tanya’s organization, Independent Youth, these skills are becoming a lot more available to teens.

One of the most unique things about Independent Youth is that it is very peer-to-peer based. Sometimes it is a lot easier to learn something from your peers, who you have more in common with, than an older speaker. Tanya got this idea when she first started interviewing teen entrepreneurs.

“I would always ask them if they knew any other teenage entrepreneurs and they always said no. So I got the idea to connect teenage entrepreneurs to each other,” Tanya said.

Independent Youth includes programs like annual teen entrepreneurship symposiums. These events are held in Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Louis, Missouri, and Atlanta, Georgia. There are also on site classroom presentations such as ExploreAvision. ExploreAvision is a business launch program the organization holds with participants that have attended the symposiums. There are other services to connect high school teachers with resources and entrepreneurs in their local communities.

When asked what advice she gives to youth, Tanya said, “We always say… Any passion can be translated into an entrepreneurial venture. So my advice to teens: figure out what makes you excited, what you’re passionate about, stay focused, and stay encouraged. And finding good mentors-- That’s always very important to help you reach your goals.”

It’s great to know that there’s an organization out there helping to do just that—connect youth with entrepreneurial-minded mentors.