By Adam Duvernay

The Register-Guard (Eugene)

An organization that has helped bring computer coding to Lane County students now is hoping to do the same with business education.

Education coalition Connected Lane County expects to launch a six-week pilot program in a Cottage Grove school this fall that will offer fourth- and fifth-grade students an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship from making a business plan to giving an elevator pitch.

The Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program is expected to begin in October for students at Bohemia Elementary School, according to Connected Lane County Director Heidi Larwick. She is in final talks with the school about implementing the program.

The program is designed to put students side-by-side with local business owners who can both lecture the class on starting up an entrepreneurial venture and guide them through the process of creating their own, Larwick said.

The students then would have an opportunity to sell the products and services they’ve created at a business exposition in December.

“This program lends itself to getting kids to think really creatively about community solutions,” Larwick said. “It’s about that creativity and making connections with what’s happening outside the classroom walls.”

Connected Lane County in spring 2017 launched its Coder in Residence program in three elementary classes at one school, but the program since has grown to 42 classrooms across the country, Larwick said. She hopes the same could happen for the Entrepreneur in Residence, expected to begin in just three classrooms.

The entrepreneurship program’s curriculum was developed by Aloma Murray, a founder of the coworking space Eugene Mindworks, where startups and remote workers can rent desk and office space instead of leasing their own.

“I was excited that this would even be a thing available to kids,” Murray said. “Entrepreneurship encompasses a lot of important skills — like goal setting and problem solving — in an exciting way.”

Murray said her curriculum calls for lessons on brainstorming how to turn things they love to do or chores in which they excel into business opportunities and how to promote their ideas succinctly in what’s often called an “elevator pitch.”

Murray has for the past few years sponsored the Sprout Children’s Business Expo, an event in which children have a venue for selling things they’ve made and services they offer. She said children don’t always know starting a business themselves is an option.

“It will introduce kids to the possibility of entrepreneurship and business ownership, and I think that in itself is really powerful,” Murray said. “It’s a disservice to kids not to introduce them to all the possibilities.”

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