Written by Brent Freeman, Founder and CEO of Roozt.com 
What I need you to do is to close your eyes and think back to when you were 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Go ahead, think of something you did that year that you were proud of, excited about, or thought was going to affect your life forever. (Seriously, go ahead, I’ll wait…)
Pretty amazing what emotions were just evoked, huh? Whether it be a sporting event, play you were in, dance you went to, or party you attended, chances are it’s a fond memory that you have kept with you for years. But while this memory may have seemed significant then, truth for most of us (including myself) is that this memory probably didn’t involve starting a business that could be a game changing innovation.
Cue Hayley Hoverter, the 15 year old sophomore at Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles. Hayley is currently in the process of creating her fond memory from sophomore year, except her memory involves developing an innovative for-profit-for-difference business that could eliminate paper sugar packets in coffee shops all across Los Angeles and beyond. With an average coffee shop in LA tearing through 1,000 or more paper sugar packets every day, Hayley is on to something.
But where did this concept stem from? That’s where we come in. Roozt set out in the Fall of 2010 to teach a for-profit social entrepreneurship class to a group of high school students in a low income area of Los Angeles, who will soon become the business leaders of tomorrow. The thought process was that if we could help instill the values of for-profit-for-difference business acumen into these students, as they go on to college and the workforce, they will be progressive leaders helping use business as a vehicle to create positive change in today’s world.
|Roozt/NFTE Social Entrepreneurship Class - Los Angeles 2010 (Center Back Row: Roozt Founders Brent Freeman & Norma LaRosa, Left Front: NFTE Teacher Michael Jaquias)|
To implement this idea, I approached the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship chapter in Greater Los Angeles and proposed a pilot program where we would modify their existing curriculum to teach social entrepreneurship. The idea was to have students identify problems in their communities they were passionate about and then create for-profit business models around helping solve those same problems. No easy task, but if done right, could be a game changer.
So September of 2010, I found myself in a class of 35 low-income students, in a highly under-funded LAUSD school district with zero prior teaching experience. My counterpart was NFTE teacher Michael Jaquias and for the next year, we taught the fundamentals of business, entrepreneurship, and giving back– all through the lens of a social entrepreneur.
Students were challenged to create cause marketing campaigns with “pop-up” retail stores in their high school where they were given $20, taken to a local wholesale market, told to negotiate and create retail products to sell at lunch. The kicker was that every “pop-up store” had to have a cause attached to it. Through this exercise, students learned the value of balancing good business practices with solid marketing and communication practices so their customers could understand “why” they should buy their products, not just the “what” they were buying.