Imagine starting and running your own business as a middle school student. It seems unrealistic, but Minding Our Business Inc. makes it possible.

Minding Our Business is a nonprofit organization that strives to provide low-income students in the Trenton area in grades six through eight with the opportunity to start their own businesses through entrepreneurship training and mentoring.

Ten students with the top business ideas will present their business plans to judges at the MOB Business Plan Competition, which is open to the public. This year’s competition takes place on Wednesday, July 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Princeton Conference Center at 900 Scudders Mill Road in Plainsboro. For more information, visit www.minding-our-business.com.

Kevin Wortham, co-founder and executive director of Minding Our Business, created and runs the MOB Summer Program and the business plan competition. All the students get to keep the profits from their businesses and the student with the best business idea receives $125 and is allowed to return to the program for free the next summer.

The summer program is a four-week intensive course that offers 35 middle school students entrepreneurship training and mentoring at Rider University through career planning activities and workshops as well as recreational activities.

The summer program also takes the students on trips to places including New York City’s Wholesale District and the Columbus Farmers Market. The program provides each student $150 to buy merchandise for their businesses. The program provides three market fairs and three business coaching sessions. Students will run their businesses by using what they learned from July 9 to August 16.

Wortham said that it is amazing to see middle school students able to handle their own businesses. The organization targets young kids with low income because their futures could be at risk, and teaching them how to make their own money will provide them with the opportunity to succeed in the future.

“You can mold their minds easier and the quicker they understand entrepreneurship and financial literacy, the greater their chance is for success,” Wortham says.

Minding Our Business was founded by Sigfredo Hernandez in 1997 to train young children in the Mercer County area to start and run their own businesses. It was designed to teach inner city kids how to become entrepreneurs, and Hernandez’s goal was to provide them with opportunities and knowledge to develop and succeed in the future.

Since 1997 Minding Our Business has helped more than 2,500 students. The organization began as an outreach of Rider University’s College of Business Administration. Minding Our Business runs three different programs that educate and mentor young students: the Service Learning Program, a 12-week after school program that teaches middle school students in Trenton about the basic process of starting and running a business; the summer program, an intensive four-week program that provides students with entrepreneurship training and mentoring; and the advanced program, a 10-month business coaching program that offers students training and support to help them run their businesses all year. These programs focus on math, reading, communication, and life skills as well as business and entrepreneurship training.

“The main goal is to have the students recognize that entrepreneurship is a viable career option,” Wortham said.

Wortham, born and raised in Princeton, had originally been working as a consultant with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and was running his own vending machine business at the same time. Through networking, he met Hernandez and started the summer program at Minding Our Business.

Wortham said the most important advice he could give to the students is to “follow your passion and allow no one to deter you from that.”

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