Online Business Degree Program Creating Young Entrepreneurs

In a world full of budding entrepreneurs, business degrees are great assets for those interested in owning a small business. A business degree is also a requirement for  jobslike accountants, financial advisors, and human resource specialists.

There are a number of online options to choose from for people interested in obtaining a degree in business, and one not-for-profit based in Georgia hopes to extend that option to children as young as age seven.

Dynasty Entrepreneur Development, Inc. (DEDI) is offering youth ages seven to 17 an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in business for free as part of its Business Apprenticeship Program, established two years ago. Students are matched with small business owners who act as mentors, and allowed to work side-by-side with their mentors, learning hands-on the principles and techniques of running a business. Course work is completed online, and the students have face-to-face meetings twice a month to take quizzes and ask their mentors questions.

“There are many segments of people throughout the country who are great consumers. We need to learn how to think like producers,” said Clayton McKinnie, DEDI founder and executive director. “We’re teaching these kids how to think like producers.”

McKinnie and Dr. Beauty Baldwin, DEDI consultant for educational curriculum development, are currently working to get accreditation for the Bachelor of Science in Business degree, which they hope to include a focus on experiential business.

DEDI sponsors a program called Rites of Passage Entrepreneurs (ROPE), and those members are trained to be mentors for the students. McKinnie said the degree program is valuable because students can gain actual working experience learning to run a business while earning their degree. Students will finish with the knowledge, degree, and finances to pursue whatever they’d like in the future.

Currently three businesses participate in the program – two direct-marketing businesses and one real estate business. The primary criteria in choosing businesses is that they are willing to share more than half of the profit collected through income from the mentee’s marketing efforts, the specifics of which the mentor and business owner agree upon prior to program inception, McKinnie explained.

“For example, a mentor might go make a presentation to a client and the mentee goes along as well and is involved in the presentation,” McKinnie said. “The student would be paid for that. Every student will have an account set up for them, and will have full access to it once they’ve completed the program.”

Completion of the degree will require 122 hours, 33 faith-based and 22 simulation courses. McKinnie said it usually takes students three to four years because most attend high school during the day.

Working adults can also participate in the program, but it’s the younger students who might benefit most from the head start. Course content includes accounting for youth, marketing, business math, and presentation skills. The younger students, ages 7-11, take courses tailored for their age group.

“In lieu of accounting, we offer them a checkbook course where they would learn how to write checks and make deposits,” he said. “They will be taught the same principles of business, but at a level appropriate for them.

Sandra Kittrell said she chose to be a mentor in the program because it was her calling.

“We started talking about what we could do as a ministry to aid in generational wealth,” said Kittrell, who teaches the students accounting principles. “Most of my generation grew up thinking that you get your education, then go work for someone else. This program will allow students to be ahead of the game. They will get out of high school and have options, as well as the money to pursue those options.”

Kittrell’s son Seth is a high school junior who is a student in the program.

“I have a lot of business ideas, and I want to see them come to life. This program will teach you how to get your ideas out there and be a good steward of the money you make,” he said. “It would be fun to see something that started out as an idea in your head turn into the next Fortune 500 company.”

High school sophomore Macarthur Aaron wants to have the business degree as a cushion.

“I’ll have this business degree to fall back on, no matter what I decide to do – psychologist, doctor, anything,” he said. “If I earn another degree, then I would have two.”

McKinnie said he hopes to expand the apprenticeship program to the national level.

“Within the next three years, we hope to have chapters in several other cities – Orlando and Gainesville, Florida; three more cities in Georgia, including Savannah; as well as Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee,” he said. “We just need a civic organization or church to allow us to come in and implement the program. Five to ten years from now we plan to have chapters all over the country.”

McKinnie said programs like these help students pursue their passion, whatever it may be.

“It gives them an alternative to gangbanging or doing something illegal to make money,” he said. “We’re showing them that they can have the same type of lifestyle doing it the right way.”

Classes begin August 20.

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJonesCMN

Photo: Clayton McKinnie hopes his program will lead youth to entrepreneurial careers. (Courtesy: Dynasty)