Practicing What They Teach

For these Youth Entrepreneurs® educators, entrepreneurship doesn’t stop with the last school bell

April 11, 2018

Working a second job to earn extra income is nothing new, but today, the options and opportunities for the entrepreneurial-minded are even more abundant.

About Youth Entrepreneurs

Founded in 1991 by Liz Koch and her husband Charles (chairman and CEO of Koch Industries), Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) is a high school program with the goal for each YE student to seek the knowledge of a business owner, pursue education beyond high school, and to become successful – in business and life.

YE has inspired more than 27,000 high school students in 10 states across the country and provides an experiential education model that instills entrepreneurial and economic principles that inspire students to overcome barriers and find success.

Anyone willing to takeon a “side hustle” can turn their car into a taxi, run a virtual craft boutique, sell skin creams over social media, or even make ad revenue by vlogging (video blogging) on YouTube.

And many already do. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Bankrate, 44 million Americans have a side hustle – or, a way of earning extra income independent of their nine to five job. While people age 18 to 26 are most likely to have a side hustle (28%), just about every age demographic is getting in on the action. 

That includes three Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) educators who have all taken different paths to supplement their income, applying the very same principles they teach to pursue their personal passions. YE provides foundational skills in entrepreneurship that set students up for future success and inspire them to pursue their dreams.

Picking up a side hustle is a natural fit for anyone familiar with the Foundational Values of YE, which include Responsibility, Opportunity, Win-Win Focus and Passion, and help guide both students and alumni toward fulfilling and meaningful lives.

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Erica DeHaas, Premier High School – Youth Entrepreneurs Teacher for 2 Years

Erica DeHaas

Prior to teaching YE at Premier High School, a credit recovery school for at-risk students in Lewisville, Texas, Erica DeHaas had dreamed of owning her own business and writing a novel. After completing her training to lead the YE program at Premier, she knew she had a responsibility to herself – and her students – to make her entrepreneurial ambitions happen.

“I always wanted to be a writer,” said DeHaas. “But I would pick it up and put it down. One thing that encouraged me to stick with it was just being a role model for my students. I’m always encouraging them to do more than what they’re doing now, so I felt like I had to do something more, too. It’s what pushed me to finish my book.”

Her novel, “The Journey That Lies Within,” a period piece that tells the story of two friends facing a spiritual dilemma who set out to find new lives in the untamed American west, was quickly picked up by a faith-based publisher and is available on Amazon.   

DeHaas has also started her own jewelry business, Outside In-Spirational Beads, selling hand-crafted jewelry. Leveraging her networking skills honed through learning and teaching the YE curriculum, she recently formed a partnership with a Mary Kay consultant to match her jewelry to specific cosmetic products.

“Hopefully it will open up a whole new set of customers for my business.”

Lydia DeGarmo, F.L.Schlagle High School – Youth Entrepreneurs Teacher for 4 Years

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Lydia DeGarmo, a fourth-year YE teacher at F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas, found her own entrepreneurial inspiration while walking to the gym one day.

“It was a beautiful, sunny, perfect day outside, and I was about to spend an hour and a half indoors,” said DeGarmo. “I really like working out, but I was just kind of bummed that I was going to spend all that time inside a gym.”

Seeing an opportunity in an open market, DeGarmo used her experience and familiarity with the YE curriculum to pair her love for exercise with the outdoors. She conducted her own market research, then worked toward earning certification in several forms of group exercise and created her own outdoor fitness company, FreshFitness.

“I started leading fitness classes at local parks, tennis courts … anywhere there was a flat space that could accommodate a group of people,” said DeGarmo.

When insurance costs made her side hustle economically unfeasible, DeGarmo made an educated decision to dissolve her business and partner with the local parks department to teach outdoor fitness classes through the city. It was a win-win that allowed her to continue doing what she loved without taking a loss. And it’s an experience she’s been able to incorporate into her lesson plan.

“It’s just a good example of how things can actually play out, and that sometimes you have to do what’s financially feasible, even if that means selling or dissolving your business … whatever it might be,” said DeGarmo. “I think it validates me a little in my students’ eyes that, yes, I actually know what I’m talking about.”

Cameron Dueker, Peoria Accelerated High School – Youth Entrepreneurs Teacher for 1 Year

Cameron Dueker

For Cameron Dueker, shopping his movie script around Hollywood proved to be a humbling experience. Dueker, a YE teacher at Peoria Accelerated High School in Peoria, Arizona, made a resolution in 2012 to commit the story he’d held in his head for 10 years to paper. But he soon realized that writing the script was the easy part.

“If you’re nobody in the business, you have a very low chance of ever getting noticed, especially in a competitive market,” said Dueker.

He sent query letters to agents and producers, and some replied back offering advice or feedback, but found no takers because he hadn’t written anything before. Rather than get discouraged or give up, his determination and belief in his idea drove him to pivot and change formats, drawing on his own YE teachings to “make his own luck.”

“I ended up taking the script and making it into a graphic novel,” said Dueker. “It’s called ‘No Beans in the Wheel,’ and I’ve actually hired an artist to handle the illustrations. We’re almost done with the first 10 pages.”

While that graphic novel is still in development, the scriptwriting process ignited something inside Dueker that spurred his inner entrepreneur into overdrive. He’s since led a 10-person team in the development of a mobile game, launched an affiliate sales website and, most recently, signed on to write scripts for a cartoon series called “Car City,” which has more than half a million subscribers on YouTube.

“What I try to tell my students is, if you have an idea for a business, don’t let any excuse get in your way,” said Dueker. “If you look at the Foundational Values, it’s called passion. If you really want something, you can do it. You just have to put in the time and make sacrifices.”

  • Cameron Dueker

    Cameron Dueker, a first-year YE teacher at Peoria Accelerated High School in Peoria, Arizona, made a resolution in 2012 to commit the story he’d held in his head for 10 years to paper. But shopping his movie script around Hollywood proved to be a humbling experience. Instead of getting discouraged, Dueker turned his script into a graphic novel and soon had it in production, with several more projects on the horizon. Dueker proved that he believes in what he preaches to his YE students. "If you have an idea for a business, don't let any excuse get in the way."

  • Erica DeHaas

    Erica DeHaas, a YE teacher in her second year at Premier High School in Lewsiville, Texas, had always dreamed of owning her own business and writing a novel. After completing her training to lead the YE program, she knew she had a responsibility to herself – and her students – to make her entrepreneurial ambitions happen. Her novel is now available on Amazon and she also recently formed a partnership with other business owners to promote her jewelry business, Outside In-Spirational Beads.

  • Cameron Dueker

    Cameron Dueker, a first-year YE teacher at Peoria Accelerated High School in Peoria, Arizona, made a resolution in 2012 to commit the story he’d held in his head for 10 years to paper. But shopping his movie script around Hollywood proved to be a humbling experience. Instead of getting discouraged, Dueker turned his script into a graphic novel and soon had it in production, with several more projects on the horizon. Dueker proved that he believes in what he preaches to his YE students. "If you have an idea for a business, don't let any excuse get in the way."

  • Erica DeHaas

    Erica DeHaas, a YE teacher in her second year at Premier High School in Lewsiville, Texas, had always dreamed of owning her own business and writing a novel. After completing her training to lead the YE program, she knew she had a responsibility to herself – and her students – to make her entrepreneurial ambitions happen. Her novel is now available on Amazon and she also recently formed a partnership with other business owners to promote her jewelry business, Outside In-Spirational Beads.