The West Philadelphia Entrepreneurship Program, a hands-on, experiential program that teaches at-risk youth about business, is the brainchild of Villanova School of Business (VSB) Professor Ronald P. Hill, PhD the Richard J. and Barbara Naclerio Endowed Chair in Business and co-director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics. With the help of Business Fellow Wyatt Schroeder ’14 MBA, Dr. Hill combined micro-lending and entrepreneurship mentoring to create a program that aims to enhance West Philadelphia’s economy by educating underprivileged youth on how to start and run small businesses.
The idea for the project came from the most unlikely of places. While Dr. Hill was teaching a class at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County, he started having conversations with Aaron Fox, who is incarcerated at Graterford, about how many kids from Fox’s old neighborhood in West Philadelphia ended up in prison. The Entrepreneurship Program aims to reverse this trend through a combination of education and mentorship.
Each participant in the program received a $250 loan, generously provided by Wells Fargo, and was tasked with turning a business idea into a tangible product and plan. As part of the program, the kids attended weekly entrepreneurship classes and sold their products at the 60th Street Market in Philadelphia every Saturday for eight consecutive weeks. During the course of the program, they learned how to develop a business plan, create a product, market the product, track finances and build a loyal customer base.
“By teaching these kids about entrepreneurship, we want to motivate them, give them confidence and diminish their chances of being incarcerated,” says Hill. “This program gives them something to call their own, something to have pride in and reap rewards from.”
The program ran during the course of the summer, with support from Villanova University, the Enterprise Center, Junior Achievement of the Delaware Valley and Wells Fargo. On Saturday, September 14, Hill and Schroeder will host the closing ceremonies in Bartley Hall at VSB, during which the students will deliver final presentations on their businesses and will be recognized for their successful completion of the program.
“Studies have shown that teaching entrepreneurship to youth increases their chances of attending college,” says Schroeder. “The hope is that by bringing the kids to campus, they will be even more inspired to consider college, and to see it as a viable option for them.”