Starting Small

Level: Middle school
Subject: Economics
Time: Homework, plus one class period for discussion
Preparation: Have class view the entire "Opportunity" segment (Tape 2, Act 6, 1:00), then have them complete the exercise.

Most of the entrepreneurs and activists in the "Opportunity" Act of The American Promise started small and close to home. Gary Fisher found his calling in his hobby, biking; Errol Louis and Mark Winston Griffith found it in their neighborhood; Ken Smith found it in his fellow Vietnam veterans.

See if this rule of thumb holds true as you look at some of the famous and successful entrepreneurs today and throughout U.S. history. Have your students choose one entrepreneur and research his or her background. (For example, Andrew Carnegie, Commodore Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Mary Kay, Debbi Fields, Bill Gates, and so on.) Ask students to study both the entrepreneurs' businesses and personal lives:
  • What were their interests as young people?
  • What assets did they use to start the business (money, education, technical skills, contacts)?
  • What personal characteristics do you believe made them successful?

Have your students write a one-page paper that describes the characteristics that make for a successful entrepreneur. Make sure that students use specific details from the life of their entrepreneur to justify their choice.

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