Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners

Research & Engagement, 2017


The critical role of entrepreneurship and small businesses in addressing many of the social (e.g., population retention) and economic challenges (e.g., lack of jobs) facing rural communities has now been well established. Consequently, there is a substantial need for educational programs that promote entrepreneurship and vocational skills for both adults and youth whose retention will be critical for rural futures. Such programs can help local business owners maintain and grow their enterprises and promote career readiness and entrepreneurship for youth. Unfortunately, most programs intended to address these goals are developed in and for larger communities and are not attuned to the unique economic environment and job outlook in smaller communities.

This project intends to analyze the unique needs of rural businesses and youth to implement a highly successful entrepreneurship program within the local context, modify as needed and disseminate via extension professionals and relevant educational entities.


The research team has successfully completed the first pilot program in the Sandhills area and implemented a portion of the program in Krakow, Poland in June 2018.

In the Sandhills, one-on-one interviews with local business owners and focus group interview with youth participants were conducted to address the goal of examining the unique needs and contexts of local businesses and rural youth with regard to business ownership, entrepreneurship, and vocational training. The research team is in the process of transcribing, coding, and analyzing the collected data.

In combination with the RFI project, “Developing A Model for Quality of Life” as well as the RFI project “Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future,” this project has earned a $490k USDA grant for high-tech youth entrepreneurship clinics. Details >>>

Project Team







Media Coverage


Contact: Surin Kim,