Business Plus

JEP Brings Enterprise To The School Curriculum

The Junior Entreprene­ur Programme encourages children to create their own businesses — and teaches lessons in teamwork and negotiatio­n along the way, writes

- Vincent Rastfeld

Founding and managing a business is child’s play. What else to conclude when considerin­g the €3m worth of sales that primary school pupils have achieved in the Junior Entreprene­ur Programme? Of course this amount of revenue was not achieved by one project and one group of pupils. Still, the fact that the over 100,000 school children have participat­ed in the programme since 2010 might be one reason Ireland’s economy is performing so well relative its European peers.

The JEP is the brainchild of Kerry entreprene­ur Jerry Kennelly, who in 2006 sold his stock photograph­y business Stockbyte to Getty Images for over €100m. Kennelly developed JEP with Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, and in 2020 state agency Enterprise Ireland gave its official backing, joining RTÉ and Kennelly’s marketing technology company Tweak as a partner.

According to Marie Lynch, cofounder of JEP, c.10,000 pupils in 400 classes worked on their classroom businesses as part of the 2023 programme. “Through JEP, children experience first-hand just how much fun creating, working and succeeding in business can be,” Lynch explains. “The children appreciate every cent when their investment in the business is on the line — and they savour the profit.”

The programme caters for fifth- and sixth-class primary school children and aims to combine the children’s creativity with the skills they develop on the

programme to create original products. Children begin by learning about entreprene­urs and are urged to dream up business ideas. One Big

Idea is selected and to take forward as a class. The pupils conduct market research and sometimes meet with entreprene­urs before developing their team working skills and going on to make and sell their products.

“One of the key changes in the approaches of the classroom entreprene­urs has been the realisatio­n that their entreprene­urial endeavours can make a difference in their locality,” says Lynch. “As a result, they’ve embraced the concept of social entreprene­urship, funded by their successful classroom businesses.”

JEP encourages successful entreprene­urs to help out. Supporters include Frank Salmon of CMS Distributi­on, Chupi Sweetman of Chupi Jewellery, and Sonya Lennon, co-founder of Lennon Courtney.

The micro enterprise­s emerging from the classroom range from board games to storybooks, craft and educationa­l products, and service ideas with a focus on topics like sustainabi­lity and wellbeing. JEP’s class of the year 2022 award went to Sacred Heart National School in Aughrim, who devised a children’s book, Alfie’s Aughrim Adventures.

The book features a little llama that explores the Wicklow village in search of treasure and takes in the town landmarks. The kids each ponied up €10 to produce 120 books and the venture turned a profit of €730. Children from St Saviour’s National School in Rathdrum sold ‘BushCraft Boxes’ containing necessitie­s for a nature trail, such as compass bracelets, a trail guide with QR codes, and a booklet containing informatio­n around flora and fauna. That project delivered a surplus of €800.

“The feedback from many pupils is that starting a business is much tougher than they had imagined. Many children cite the biggest challenges as learning to compromise, listening to everyone’s ideas and working as a team,” according to Lynch. “However, their biggest takeaway is the sense of pride and achievemen­t they feel from successful­ly creating a business from scratch.”

JEP’s experience is that the ideal time to introduce the concept of enterprise to children is when they are 11 or 12 years old, though programme success depends on an engaged teacher and close parental and community contact with the schools. The programme is free for participat­ing schools and locks into curriculum subjects English, Maths, Visual Arts, ICT, Drama and SPHE.

 ?? ?? Sixth class pupils from Shellybank­s national school in Sandymount helped the Junior Entreprene­ur Programme reach the 100,000 classroom entreprene­ur landmark
Sixth class pupils from Shellybank­s national school in Sandymount helped the Junior Entreprene­ur Programme reach the 100,000 classroom entreprene­ur landmark

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