Teenagers Model Business, Achieve Ugly Success

Who says teenagers are too young to learn entrepreneurship basics?

Here in Portland Oregon, a group of high school students used business modeling to achieve what can only be described as an ugly success.

The teens participated in a “Future of Food” design challenge sponsored by Portland education incubator Construct Foundation.

Their task: 1) research food-related business ideas, 2) test their findings through interviews with farmers, producers, distributors, and food entrepreneurs, 3) build and verify prototypes, then 4) pitch the resulting business models to an audience of food industry experts, entrepreneurs, and investors. 

The students, dubbed “Breakers” after the name of the design challenge program, used a simplified version of the Business Model Canvas in their work. 

The results of the latest Breaker program might best be described as…well, fruitful.

After discovering that farmers routinely discard produce that grocers consider cosmetically unfit for display, the teens came up with Ugly! Fruit Jam, a delicious fruit spread made from blemished but perfectly good apples, pears, and other fruit. The product is designed to reduce waste and benefit growers, brokers, merchandisers, and consumers alike.

Grocery chain New Seasons liked Ugly! Fruit Jam so much that it agreed to carry the new product. Now the students are crafting a go-to-market strategy while working on flavor profiles with New Seasons’s test kitchen.

The experience imbued the teens with a deep sense of agency: an awareness that they can make things happen—and that their personal business models can encompass entrepreneurship as well as conventional jobs.

“Young people are entering a world that values creative thinking, problem solving, and initiating new opportunities,” says Construct founder Gina Condon. “The Breaker program gives students a chance to develop those talents.”

by Tim Clark, Founder, Business Model You, LLC

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