It’s a command passed down from generation to generation: “Don’t talk to strangers.” But on Friday, that command goes out the window for a group of Boston high schoolers learning to be entrepreneurs.
That’s because chatting up strangers is a central part of starting a business, says Adam Nestler cofounder and chief executive of Boston-based transportation startup Skedaddle.
Nestler and his team will welcome several dozen students from five Boston high schools to his company’s headquarters at the WeWork shared office space facility in Boston, where they’ll get a crash-course on how to pitch a business.
After the students will fan out in Dewey Square armed with promo cards to market Skedaddle to strangers. The company provides “pop-up” bus service in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC via a smartphone app.
These students are part of BUILD Greater Boston, the local chapter of a national nonprofit that teaches young people about business. Since its launch in Boston five years ago, the BUILD chapter has served around 250 students, who enroll in the BUILD program as an elective course during high school.
The program shows students how to conceive, launch and market their own small business. By the end of the four-year program, student teams will have developed a business plan and pitched it to venture capitalists. The businesses under development by the current class include a cookie startup, a custom tee-shirt maker and maker of designer compression sleeves for athletes.
Nestler himself started a business as a teenager, a landscaping “company” that eventually grew to 15 employees, 3 mowers, and enough money to help pay for college
Skedaddle operations manager Hayden Broberg is a BUILD volunteer who mentors three sophomores at Jeremiah E. Burke Senior High School in Dorchester. She arranged the field trip to give students a glimpse of life at a startup, which, she said, is not always artisanal coffee, open floor plans, and trendy standing desks.
“It’s certainly not glamorous,” Broberg said.
Next week, the students will head to the headquarters of Staples, Inc. in Framingham for mock interviews, and later this month it’s off to Washington, DC for a week-long tour of area colleges.
Regardless of whether the businesses ever take off, the process teaches them communication skills and tenacity, says Ryan Rucker, a program manager at BUILD Boston.
“We don’t expect all our students to become entrepreneurs and business owners,” Rucker said. “But tying it to something tangible, something physical to hold on to and say ‘I did that, I built that in high school,’ it really makes a difference.”Amanda Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @charlie_acb.