University Economic Development Association


Award Category: Talent Development
Project Site: UMD Center for Economic Development
Submitted By: University of Minnesota-Duluth
Contact: Sandi Larson , 218.726.7975

Case Study


In 2012, the UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) developed and implemented a new program, UMD Teen Enterprise, to encourage entrepreneurship for students ages 14–18.  The week-long camp is held on the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) campus.

UMD Teen Enterprise provides a youth entrepreneurship experience to participants, and serves to strengthen ties between UMD and the business community. The collaborative design of this program utilizes UMD Labovitz School of Business and Economics students, CED staff and entrepreneurs in the community and is a creative and innovative way to introduce entrepreneurism at an influential stage.

CED has developed a curriculum offering 35 hours of instruction in collaboration with Junior Achievement.  The program includes the following: understanding entrepreneurship, business planning, research, competitive advantage, ethical practices and other business topics.  During the week, students participate in a variety of entrepreneurship focused activities, take field trips that include visiting businesses, listening session with entrepreneurs to expand their understanding of business types, and practical skills such as computer research tools and how to give an effective presentation. At the end of the week students do a formal presentation of their business idea to their peers, instructors, families and partners of the program.


The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) all acknowledge that the K-12 educational systems grapple with many challenging issues including under-preparedness of high school graduates for college level work. According to Job Outlook 2012, the top five skills employers look for evidence of are:

  1. Ability to work in a team
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Written communication skills
  4. Problem-solving skills
  5. Strong work ethic


As a Small Business Development Center (SBDC), CED staff saw a unique opportunity to address these skills while focusing on entrepreneurship to encourage future economic growth. The SBA and Minnesota Small Business Development Centers Network (MnSBDC) strongly encourage SBDC’s to provide youth entrepreneur educational opportunities. Statistics show that the current college graduate will have between 7 – 14 careersduring their life and at least one of those career choices will be entrepreneurship. By providing a youth entrepreneurship program, CED generates an interest in entrepreneurship in our youth, teaches them basic principles of business, and stresses the need for further education.

With encouragement from the U.S. SBA Minnesota District Office and MnSBDC Network to provide entrepreneurship programs for youth, along with a CED team with an interest in pursuing this project, CED developed and implemented UMD Teen Enterprise.


Since implementing the UMD Teen Enterprise program in 2012, CED has held two successful camps with a total of 17 participants. The participants did activities, research and group projects to expand their understanding of entrepreneurship. They also met and talked to local business owners, toured businesses, wrote business plans and gave a business presentation at the end of the camp. Because of this program, 17 teenagers in rural Northeast Minnesota have a strong working knowledge of what it takes to start a business. Three participants already had their own business when they participated in the camp and felt very strongly that this program would help them grow their business and better run it. For the other participants, the camp made them realize how challenging starting your own business can be but also increased their interest in pursuing entrepreneurship as a career option.

Future Considerations

CED intends to continue to offer UMD Teen Enterprise on an annual basis holding a camp at the University of Minnesota Duluth campus using the five-day format. CED will also continue to collaborate with the local community colleges in the region, as we did with Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, to offer at least one other camp in another part of the region in a smaller community annually using the three-day format to accommodate those who travel longer distances to attend.  CED is also considering the development of a week-long on-campus format where students would stay on-site allowing for student to come from long distances to participate in the camp.  This would also allow for more a more in-depth learning experience.

CED has commitments from several funding sources to allow for this program to continue with minimal cost to the participants. There has also been expressed interest by other sources so if there was need, we are confident that more funding can be acquired.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2013. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.