Pittsburgh was well represented during the National Entrepreneurship Education Forum recently held in Atlanta, Ga. In its thirtieth year, the conference was a product of the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. The theme of the three-day event was Dream Big…Nurture the Entrepreneurial Spirit.

PITTSBURGH IN THE HOUSE—Alice Williams and Tina Stevenson representing the Women Empowered for Entrepreneurial Excellence gain knowledge in the ATL. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

In her third year of attending, Alice Williams, executive director of Women Empowered for Entrepreneurial Excellence said the conference demonstrates how various states value the significance of youth entrepreneurship. “Pennsylvania operates differently, their focus is workforce development.” Attending this year as a workshop presenter she said her presentation MOMpreneurs—Mothership Your Business, outlined how children can be introduced to the concept of business ownership at a young age.

Other Pittsburghers partaking in the conference were Tina Stevenson, a WEEE board member and former owner of Wood Street Emporium in Wilkinsburg. Linda Clautti, CEO of Urban Pathways Charter School, Jerry Cozewith, president of Entrepreneuring Youth and Sally Mizerak, president of Performance Drives, Inc. conducted a workshop called Oil and Water: From Pushback to Partnership Between School Leaders and Entrepreneurship Providers.

John Hope Bryant the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, entrepreneur and now author kicked off the conference sharing his life story and encouraging the attendees to focus efforts on developing young minds. “The most dangerous person in the world is a person with no hope,” he said. “We have to believe in our kids. It is up to us to be their role models.” He pointed out that drug dealers represent entrepreneurs. Stating that they could be business geniuses with the right leadership, but instead they are locked up leaving the community empty of young minds. “We have to stop being traditional and become entrepreneurial,” he said pointing out that Bill Gates and other successful business people didn’t fit the norm.

Recently making the Inc. Magazine/CEO Read business best seller list for his book “Love Leadership,” Bryant said an entrepreneur never gives up and needs energy, passion and an intellectual mind. “Entrepreneurship is my Life.”

Founded to break down the barrier between privileged and poor, Bryant describes the mission, vision and purpose of his organization as the private banker for the working poor, the underclass and the struggling middle class. Our mission is ‘silver rights,’ or making free enterprise and capitalism work for all. Financial literacy is the tool, financial dignity is the goal and financial inclusion is the way.

Thinking along the same lines as Bryant, Williams in her presentation also emphasized the importance of honing in on and developing the skills of youth. “Enterprise starts in the home, with the family. Parents have to look at the skills of their children which start by designating responsibility at a young age.” She outlined family meetings, providing children an allowance, and teaching the value of giving as everyday home rituals that flow into business development and the workforce. “Having something as simple as a family mission statement, what she described as a combined, unified expression from all family members of what the family is all about and the principles chosen to govern the family life fits into the entrepreneurial concept,” she said.

Focusing on women she indicated that mother-owned microenterprise emerging firms have the potential to offer economic stability for families, a solid tax base, a decrease in the burden on social services and family self-sufficiency.

Williams said she conducts the same seminar for women at her facility located in McKees Rocks. With the mission of WEEE to stimulate and support sustainable economic growth and prosperity for a diverse population of women by providing microenterprise businesses with strategies, resources and business incubation, and a trusted source for information and guidance she said women in the area appreciate the information.

“It provides a different way of thinking about the family structure. When you point out that you can build a family business based on the IRS Tax Code people have a tendency to listen,” said Williams.

During her presentation Williams explained that in 2012, you can pay your child up to 5,950 dollars without incurring a tax liability. Reasonable wages you pay to your minor child to work are fully deductible as a legitimate business expense, lowering the mother’s gross income. For your son or daughter, the standard deduction eliminates all of the tax on the child’s income.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education organizational vision is to be an organization recognized as the national leader in advocating entrepreneurship education as a lifelong learning process. Under the leadership of Cathy Ashmore PhD, the Consortium champions entrepreneurship education and provides advocacy, leadership, networking, technical assistance, and resources nationally across all levels and disciplines of education, promoting quality practices and programs.

A strong advocate for youth entrepreneur development during its conference the Consortium celebrated 30 years of dedication to American Youth and has plans to celebrate the seventh annual National Entrepreneurship Week Feb. 16-23.

“Resources from the Consortium have helped WEEE in our development,” said Williams. “We share the thinking that entrepreneurship empowers everyone and plan on doing some joint ventures.”

Currently WEEE is conducting information sessions and hosting open houses at their 620 Island Avenue site. Classes for the next Operation Jump Start sessions will start in January. For information, call 412- 458-1308.

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