Entrepreneurs

Rare Birds founder Jo Burston launches online program to foster entrepreneurship in Australian children

Dinushi Dias /

Rare Birds founder Jo Burston has joined forces with innovation expert Dr Richard Seymour to launch an online learning program to foster entrepreneurship in young Australian children.

Phronesis Academy, which launched on the weekend, offers an online, blended learning program for secondary school students to learn the skills, know-how and self-belief needed to launch and grow businesses and social enterprises.

The need to set this up hit Burston a few years ago, when she asked a group of young girls in a classroom what an entrepreneur is.

“They all thought it was a man,” Burston tells StartupSmart.

Wanting to promote the world of entrepreneurship to young girls especially, she began speaking with Seymour who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney Business School and is the founder of the Entrepreneurship Development Network Asia.

“He was able to see both sides of the coin,” Burston says.

“I felt our schooling system was not catering to teaching business or entrepreneurship at that early age.”

With 40% of jobs set to disappear by 2026, Burston says these skills are absolutely critical and taking a collaborative approach between entrepreneurs, government and academics is important to create holistic solutions.

After a successful trail, Phronesis Academy’s first program, startup.business, will be delivered to Year 9 students across Australia, starting in New South Wales from August 22.

“We’ve seen kids that have had learning challenges go through this course and their grades have gone up,” Burston says.

“It changes their ability to see within themselves what they’re capable of doing.”

Startup.business is priced at $96 per module or $496 for the full six-part course.

By pricing the program, Burston says she’ll be able to grow Phronesis Academy quickly across the world and empower the next generation with the skills and knowledge to pursue what they care about instead of following the convention route.

“If you’ve got a mobile phone and access to the internet, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Bangladesh, Perth or Chicago, you should be able to learn entrepreneurship,” she says.

The blended learning program will see students grow in and outside the classroom.

“What we teach with startup.business is creative thinking, problem solving, business relations, and peer-to-peer learning which happens within the group, it’s a collaborative approach which is what it’s like in the workforce,” Burston says.

“It’s learning in action.”

Instead of simply reading and memorising, Burston says students will be asked to actually do things in the real world, by going out and speaking to business owners, testing concepts and reflecting on the outcomes.

It’s a groundbreaking and important initiative to have academics working alongside entrepreneurs to teach children practical business skills, Seymour says.

“This is combining decades of entrepreneurship experience, Jo’s as an entrepreneur and mine as an educator,” he says.

“We’ve designed startup.business from the ground up to be active, inspiring, and anchored in theory and practice.”

The announcement of Phronesis Academy coincides with the launch of Burston’s new book Building Brilliant Business Kids.

“We showcased 12 kids who have formed companies and are growing companies, who are proving that you don’t need to have lots of money and resources to get off the ground,” she says.

“It’s not just about learning about the fundamentals of business but getting the fundamental of enabling that young person to feel confident.”

This article was first published by StartupSmart.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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