Brianna Dzuricsko, Funding Program Manager and Abby Ober, Level Up Program Manager at Main Street Ventures

Creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills are all part of an entrepreneurial mindset. The team at Main Street Ventures in Cincinnati are hoping that their Inventure Entrepreneurship Academy can help high school students build those skills.

During the nine-day program, participants meet and learn from a diverse mix of Cincinnati’s top tech and entrepreneurial leaders and collaborate with other inspired students from across the region challenged to create solutions to some of our society’s toughest challenges. We spoke to Brianna Dzuricsko, Funding Program Manager, and Abby Ober, Level Up Program Manager at Main Street Ventures, about Inventure Entrepreneurship Academy.

How do you nurture an entrepreneurial spirit in high school students?

Dzuricsko: Giving them a space and opportunity to try and fail is the best way to introduce the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset. The Inventure Entrepreneurship Academy started as Entrepreneurs Change the World, a program run by Cintrifuse for the past few years. We wanted the program to continue, but maybe in a new way. For instance, we want participants to know that they don’t have to be founders to be involved in entrepreneurship. You can work in innovation in a bigger organization. We created this nine-day program to let them know that there’s a scope—it doesn’t have to look like Silicon Valley. You can create a cookie company and run it very successfully here.

What’s an average day like in the program?

Ober: Each day goes from 9am to 5pm here at Union Hall in Cincinnati. When the participants come in, we do an intro. We make sure that they get to know each other by doing some activities. Then we do a two-hour workshop with a subject matter expert (SME) from the region. The first hour of that is a presentation and the second hour is a hands-on exercise with the subject matter expert working with them. Then the students get time to figure out what they want to do based on what they’re learning.

What kind of subject matter SMEs participate?

Ober: These are people who have been working in their fields for a while. For example, we have a woman who has run her own branding company for the last 20 years. She comes in and talks about how she goes about naming a company, the process behind it. ‘This is what your idea is,’ ‘This is what you want it to feel like.’ Then she walks them through naming their company and building a brand around it. During the second week of the program, one of our days is about financing: Understanding the potential costs of a business and how to create revenue. We might even touch on funding opportunities. We also have some great universities around us from which we can engage people.

Do students come in with ideas or does that happen in the program?

Dzuricsko: They absolutely can have one if they want to, but our goal is to encourage brainstorming on that first day. We want to get them thinking about new ways to identify opportunities.

What process do you use to find student participants?

Dzuricsko: So far we’ve done on-the-ground outreach. We made a list of all the high schools in Hamilton County. We reach out and kind of cold email them to let them know about the program. We also do some social media pushing but we’ve gotten the most success by reaching out to school personnel. Every school has a person who can identify and recommend certain students. So far, they’ve all been very eager to get this out to their students. We’re really excited to see just how many different schools have signed up so far.

How is your program funded?

Dzuricsko: Main Street Ventures, in general, is funded through a lot of different sources. We get some money from the city of Cincinnati, some from Ohio Third Frontier, but we have private donors as well.

What’s the long-term benefit of nurturing entrepreneurial thinking in young people in Cincy?

Ober: If we can show these students that Cincinnati has really exciting things going on in terms of businesses, maybe they’ll stay here. We can keep really great talent here in our city.