Next-gen entrepreneurs: Why Naomi Simson is mentoring school kids


Naomi Simson, entrepreneur. Source: supplied.

I have asked myself many times: where and why are entrepreneurs created?

Why is it that from a young age some kids are interested in business and get started on a project — think lemonade stand — and others have simply no interest at all in starting an enterprise?

I recently hosted a leadership tour on the ‘future of work’, where research out of the US showed only 11% of CEOs believe their business model will be viable by 2023.

What does this mean for young people? It is clear that work and careers will have a whole new meaning.

This must surely affect education too. How is our society preparing young people for perpetual change? What we know is that entrepreneurship, creativity and resilience will be critical to a young person’s ability to contribute and create a job for themselves.

An old Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today”.

We don’t have 20 years, so we need to get started today. For Australia to be internationally competitive, a new look needs to be taken on how we approach the idea of ‘entrepreneurship’ in schools.

Young people are inventive, imaginative and innate problem solvers. I see young people thinking up business ideas all the time.

I was recently in Newcastle on a leadership study tour, where I met a young entrepreneur, aged 11, who was constantly evolving his offering — making ‘fingerboards’ (skateboards for fingers) for his fellow students.

He told me he has watched every episode of Shark Tank Australia. And while Shark Tank remains an inspiration for many young people, the opportunity to share their idea with an entrepreneur could be invaluable.

Last year, I worked with Helen Baker, founder of Spill the Beans, on a pitching competition for young people. Recently, on a panel, she was challenged by the question of how more young people can gain access to entrepreneurs.

She seized upon  the idea of matching entrepreneurs with schools, allowing entrepreneurs to volunteer some time to meet with students, work with teachers and collaborate on entrepreneurial projects.

And so the Australian Schools Program for In-Residence Entrepreneurs (ASPiRE) was created. Since sharing the idea and doing a few posts on LinkedIn, she has been contacted by both schools and entrepreneurs alike.

Naomi Simson mentoring 12-year-old entrepreneur Jack Berne, founder of charity A Fiver for a Farmer. Source: supplied.

I’m pleased to be a part of the program, collaborating with Helen and the team to bring this program to life. How wonderful it will be to have entrepreneurs as role models and mentors to students throughout Australia (and beyond).

I’ve always been incredibly passionate about education, entrepreneurship and innovation, which is why partnering with Spill the Beans makes so much sense for me. It is such an innovative approach to support teachers and schools in building the entrepreneurial ‘muscle’ within schools.

ASPiRE works to match entrepreneurs with schools to assist with their business and entrepreneurial programs.

The Entrepreneur in Residence position is voluntary, and involves working alongside educators, helping to mentor students, volunteering time and assisting in the development of transferable entrepreneurial skills in students, ultimately helping them to thrive in life and, in particular, on their post-school journey.

I know many entrepreneurs who love to share what they have learnt, and are inspired by the next generation, but they are not quite sure how to engage with schools. And schools are looking for confidence in the entrepreneurs’ abilities and expertise.

Helen has a big vision to support young people’s entrepreneurial aspirations, to take their enterprise beyond the ‘lemonade stand’ and I am really happy to put my efforts behind such an innovative way of connecting people.

Who knows which next generation of entrepreneurs we will meet through the program.

One thing we know is the world will look very different by the time our young people leave school. And having an entrepreneurial appetite will give them another choice as they consider their work options.

Aspire to be the leader and others will be inspired too.

I’m thinking entrepreneurs are created, but only when young people can see what they look like.

Find more information about the ASPiRE program and get involved here.


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Tim Davies
Tim Davies
4 months ago

Great initiative. Our schooling system currently doesn’t teach entrepreneurship, yet the overwhelming majority of Australian businesses have less than 19 staff. Clearly there is a strong case for introducing the concepts of business, innovation, resilience and collaboration to our young people to better prepare them for driving Australian businesses into the future.