Students will learn how to successfully run their own business — or side hustles — when Williamson County Schools opens its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center in August.
Courses and technology in the EIC, a 10,000 sq. ft. annex adjacent to Franklin High School, will be available to ninth through twelfth grade students in WCS.
The students, under the leadership of EIC Director Kari Miller, will receive mentoring from local business leaders to grow their already existing businesses — including bake shops and screen printing services — or start something new.
“The next generation is really interested in being their own boss and doing something different,” Miller said. “We know a lot of our students already have side hustles. This is just a way for kids to do it right and do it bigger.”
The program is the first of the kind in the country, according to Miller, and students will be able to keep any profits they earn through businesses launched as part of coursework.
According to Miller, 130 students have signed up to participate in career and technical courses offered during the school day, many of whom will spend the first semester launching a real business.
Student entrepreneurship opportunities include: launching a business; finding innovative solutions to problems; launching a new product; and offering a service, such as lawn care, child care, photography or play music at events.
Transportation will be provided to students, and Miller said students from all 10 WCS high schools have signed up to participate in the EIC’s first semester.
The EIC will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students will have the opportunity after school to access the EIC and potentially host focus groups, film commercials, use a 3D printer, work with textiles and more.
Miller said she hopes to provide whatever equipment necessary to help students launch their businesses.
The EIC also includes a coffee shop.
Miller formerly served as principal of Mill Creek Middle and said she was attracted to the opportunity to oversee the EIC because it directly responded to the needs of students.
“I’m proud to say of the students who are coming (to the EIC), it’s a very small percentage who had business or marketing classes. This is something new for them, which makes me proud to say they never would have tried entrepreneurial classes if it had not been for the EIC.”
Students will have the opportunity a few times a year to participate in Shark Tank-like pitches, where Miller said they can ask for money to fund their ideas.
Miller is urgently seeking Nashville-area business leaders and entrepreneurs entrepreneurs to mentor students in a variety of business ventures, including technology, fashion design, photography and music.
“We are hoping to have 200 mentors,” Miller explained. “There’s really no time commitment; It could be once a week or once a year. They have options to choose from.”
Mentors will need to be fingerprinted in order to work with students under WCS regulations.
Miller is also searching for guest lecturers.
The EIC is supported by the Catalyst Network, a group of business leaders, mentors and entrepreneurs who are partnering with EIC leadership to launch the center.
Visit the EIC Catalyst Network website for more information on becoming a mentor.