By Lynn Mazur, SCLSNJ youth services supervisor
Lynn Mazur is a youth services librarian and supervisor at Somerset County Library System of New Jersey’s Bridgewater Library branch. Though she works with children of all ages, her speciality is tweens (grades 4-6) and children and teens with special needs. Many of her programs revolve around volunteership and creating opportunities that help teach professional responsibility. For Mazur, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing the pride in her patrons after a job well done.
What do the following business ventures have common? Low-cost, intelligent drones developed to assist first responders; a lemonade business that uses honey from local bees and gives a portion of its profits to organizations dedicated to saving honey bees from extinction; a travel review website dedicated to kids; a skin-care line developed with botanical ingredients; and single-use, water-soluble containers for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or shaving cream, used as an alternative wasteful plastic packaging. Aside from being wildly successful endeavors, the creators of these businesses were recently featured in a roundup titled, “18 Under 18: Meet the Young Innovators Who Are Changing the World” on Fortune’s web service, Venture. That’s right–all of these entrepreneurs are under the age of 18.
Teens are savvier and more passionate than ever. Given the opportunity to explore their passions and the tools to cultivate skills that can turn their interests into something meaningful, these young men and women have the chance to truly change the world. Our local teens are fortunate enough to gain experience through co-curricular activities supported by their school districts. Many of the high schools in Somerset County host a chapter of Future Business Leaders of America, an organization that prepares students for college and careers through leadership, community service, and academic activities. Schools also host activities that support interest in growing industries, including science, technology (especially robotics), and healthcare.
The opportunities don’t stop at our schools, though–Somerset County Library System of New Jersey is doing its part to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of our local teens. On Friday, May 19, we are hosting our second annual Teen Tycoons competition, based on the popular television show Shark Tank. The contest is open to all students in grades 7-12 eligible for an SCLSNJ library card–all contestants must have a SCLSNJ library card to participate. The contest will be held 7-10 p.m. in our Manville branch. Teens can sign up online at SCLSNJ.org or in person at their local branch from March 15 through April 30.
The judges are looking for original business concepts and/or new variations on an existing business concept. The business can be a brand new business or an already existing business. Groups, up to a maximum of three people, are allowed to enter the competition but only one member of the group will present. The presenter will have one minute to pitch to the panel of judges. The participants will not be allowed extensions, PowerPoint slides or props of any kind (including t-shirts if your company is a t-shirt company). The best part? Prizes will be awarded to the winners!
Teens who are interested in participating in the contest but need help developing their business ideas should head to their local SCLSNJ branch–we have resources at all ten of our locations!
We have subscriptions to popular business magazines such as Money, Inc., Forbes, Fortune, and Entrepreneur (available in print at your local branch or electronically through Flipster). These magazines are full of advice for new businesses and inspirational success stories.
We also have books written with the teen entrepreneur in mind. “Start It Up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions into Pay” by Kenrya Rankin is a great resource if you’re starting with a blank slate. The first chapter includes a quiz to help you find your niche (are you a creator, a helper, a techie, or a handy one?), and offers suggestions for business pursuits based on your results. This book also includes easy-to-use worksheets for developing your business plan and budget. “Quick Cash for Teens: Be Your Own Boss and Make Big Bucks” by Peter G. Bielagus is another great resource for inspiration. Not only does the last chapter of this book offer business suggestions, it covers everything you would need to start a particular business–cost, time, skills, potential customers, and a step-by-step outline of how to get the business off the ground.
Contact or stop by the Adult or Youth Services reference desks at any of our ten branches for help finding more resources.