When you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what do you think of? Many may think wealth creation, risk taking, or start ups.
What if it also meant social change? What if it was a way to close the wealth gap? What if we looked at it in a completely different way?
To say Steve Mariotti believes in entrepreneurship is more than an understatement. He is the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a global nonprofit organization that has educated more than half a million students. He passionately believes in entrepreneurship as a transformational experience that can be used in schools, prisons, villages, and inner cities. His new book, An Entrepreneur’s Manifesto takes a completely different view of the role of entrepreneurship.
A Life-Changing Jog
You were mugged by a group of teenagers and it changed you. Not many people would have an event like that and decide to serve low-income teens for life. Would you share this story and how it impacted you?
I was mugged in 1981 by five teenagers while I was jogging one afternoon along the East River on New York City’s Lower East Side. I only had $10 in my jogging shorts and gave that to them, but they continued to threaten and humiliate me. The mugging caught me emotionally off guard, and I had flashbacks and anxiety afterward. Frankly, I became afraid of tough-looking kids. And there are a lot of tough-looking kids in New York City!
To overcome that fear, I decided to face it head-on by becoming a New York City public school teacher. My first assignment was at Boys and Girls High in Bedford Stuyvesant, which was full of tough-looking kids. Within the first day, though, I wasn’t afraid anymore. They were just kids!
The mugging also got me interested in the huge risk my muggers were taking by assaulting people for small amounts of money. Had they been able to sell me something or ask me to invest in a business deal, they could have gotten a lot more money, and it would have been a win/win situation for everyone.
I began sneaking business lessons into my classes, and my students were riveted by them. They were eager to understand how business works, and that in turn motivated them to learn math, reading and writing. In 1987, I founded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to bring entrepreneurship education to low-income youth around the world. To date there are more than 600,000 graduates of NFTE programs from Chicago to China.
“Entrepreneurship education really could change the world.” -Steve Mariotti