The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is taking another important step toward alleviating youth joblessness and underemployment by launching #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program presented by Citi that will deploy America’s top young startup founders to retool the current workforce into a more entrepreneurial one. Aspiring entrepreneurs and young people will have unprecedented, direct access to mentorship (both virtual and in-person) through interactive live video chats, how-to content and weekly email lessons.
The YEC, an invite-only nonprofit organization, was founded by Scott Gerber in November 2010 to spur more entrepreneurship among Millennials; in less than two years, it has become the most elite membership organization of its kind, with 500-plus successful young entrepreneurs who have collectively generated tens of thousands of jobs and over 1 billion dollars in revenue. Through #StartupLab, young founders, high school and college students and even current business owners are able to access those minds directly. Featured mentors in 2012 include Catherine Cook of MeetMe, Jennifer Fleiss of Rent the Runway, Slava Rubin of Indiegogo, Jason Nazar of DocStoc, Ryan Allis of iContact, Matt Mickiewicz of 99Designs and Rahim Fazal of Involver, to name just a few (see the full roster of upcoming mentorship events here).
#StartupLab launched its beta model publicly this Labor Day weekend. The beta program includes a full roster of interactive live video chats (4 per month), weekly email lessons for participants, an eBook club, and access to YEC’s complete library of how-to articles and videos. Organizations also benefit from the ability to request YEC members for their mentorship events across the country.
“America’s entrepreneurial spirit has always been a key driver of job creation and economic growth, and for 200 years, Citi has strived to enable it,” said Citi Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit. “We are proud to support the YEC and this innovative initiative to help take the next generation of entrepreneurs from ambition to achievement.”
#StartupLab’s beta program is available to individuals interested in entrepreneurship as well as to the members of various organizations that have signed up for the program including Junior Achievement, Georgetown University, BizWorld, Lemonade Day, George Washington University, MassChallenge, University of Central Florida, North Carolina Rural Center, Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, Springboard Enterprises, Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Startup Weekend, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Venture for America, Kairos Society, Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, The Levo League, U.S. Small Business Administration, Springboard Enterprises, and dozens of other universities, nonprofits, entrepreneur and small business organizations, government agencies and co-working spaces.
Because the program takes just minutes to set up and is built right into an organization’s Facebook Page, it allows entrepreneurship organizations across the country to create stronger online communities for their members quickly and effectively — at no cost to them. More importantly, through #StartupLab, these organizations can request YEC members for in-person mentorship events as well, giving their membership even more direct access to the top startup minds in the country.
“Junior Achievement USA and the Young Entrepreneur Council make powerful partners with the potential to inspire and prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs,” says Jack E. Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “#StartupLab’s approach aligns perfectly with JA’s strategy to deliver relevant and contemporary learning to young people to empower them to own their success in today’s global economy.” With so many organizations already signed up for the beta program, YEC and Citi anticipate reaching millions of aspiring entrepreneurs in year one alone. Future releases of #StartupLab will include additional programming, including mentorship matching programs, niche-based Q&A forums, and a comprehensive entrepreneurship wiki.
#StartupLab is not the first endeavor of its kind for the YEC. This spring, YEC spearheaded #FixYoungAmerica, a national grassroots campaign and book (http://fixyoungamericabook.com) that sparked student-led rallies on over 300 college campuses. #FixYoungAmerica shed light on more than 30 government, education and private sector solutions to the youth unemployment crisis that are already helping young Americans start companies and create jobs.
“Our goal with #FixYoungAmerica was to shift the national conversation from a one-sided, negative list of complaints to a dialogue about how to embrace the new economy and put young Americans back to work,” says Gerber, YEC’s founder. “Based on our experience, we knew we could help to build a more entrepreneurial America from the ground up. Now, with #StartupLab, we are beginning to realize our vision of helping to rebuild and retool the American workforce.”
Now that #FYA has helped shift the conversation about joblessness and underemployment, YEC is executing on its mission to foster a more entrepreneurial workforce through the launch of #StartupLab. With so many Americans starting new businesses — either to supplement dwindling incomes, or achieve their own version of the American dream — the YEC’s goal is to help organizations directly and inexpensively improve their member’s chances of business success and in doing so, help rebuild the economy.
“We’re excited to work with the YEC to bring the next generation of virtual mentorship to young people far and wide,” says Amy Rosen, President and CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). “#StartupLab will help support NFTE’s long-standing mission to inspire at-risk young people to recognize and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that, in turn, help them create lasting financial stability.”
To find out more about #StartupLab, or sign up for the beta program release, visit http://myStartupLab.com.
About the YEC:
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth. For more information or to apply to become a Council member, visit http://www.theyec.org.
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