Casting a wider net on careers
By SANDRA GUY firstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2012 7:11PM
Updated: July 17, 2012 6:02AM
A South Side high school student has ferreted out a niche business that gives aspiring musicians and music producers a way to get noticed against the odds.
The idea would seem to fly in the face of technology’s role of upending traditional careers, as it has in law, advertising, journalism, movie-making and countless other professions.
Stevie Bailey, an 18-year-old senior at International Charter School (CICS) Longwood at 1309 W. 95th St., learned by writing “beats” and jingles that established artists needed his skills and were willing to pay for them.
His company, 10 Trey Records, offers an online sampling of beats and jingles, which artists and music companies can either purchase directly or ask to be customized.
Once logged in, people can also post comments, download the music, ask questions and watch videos of the beats and jingles in combination with a marketing campaign.
“One artist making one album may need 12 producers, so it gives producers a better chance of putting their music out there,” said Bailey, who started experimenting with music after watching his father, Steve, play guitar and keyboard in a local band. The elder Bailey and Stevie’s mother, Lolita, run a construction and real-estate business.
Though Bailey admired his parents’ talents, he didn’t find his calling until he took an 18-month class at his high school sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and the Chicago-based Future Founders Foundation.
The younger Bailey, who named his company to reflect his Roseland community, won the audience vote and the top prize for technology at the 7th annual Future Founders Citywide Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Future Founders Foundation.
The foundation is a non-profit organization that works to inspire low-income teenagers to explore careers they never imagined.
Bailey’s teacher, Steve Jandreski, the 12th grade social science teacher, has spearheaded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s growth to 40 students this year from seven just two years ago.
The course has a long waiting list, primarily because of events like the school’s “wholesale expo” — a flea market in the basement that gives each student a $25 loan to come up with a product and see whether it sells.
“The idea isn’t to become a millionaire,” Jandreski said. “It’s about teaching economics, salesmanship, negotiating skills and dealing with customers.”
Such efforts are gaining steam nationwide, as policymakers struggle to help college graduates find jobs. The Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Chicago last week highlighted the fact that 20 percent of Millennials — people born between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s — have started their own businesses, and 40 percent see themselves doing so in the future.
Jandreski, a 31-year-old Cicero native who returned to college at age 23 after working as an Internet manager at an auto dealership, became a fan of the entrepreneurship coursework after he saw how economics studies enhanced students’ skills in critical thinking and coming up with their own ideas.
“We design the program so the kids have an entire semester of accelerated economics,” he said. “It makes me happy because I feel I’m contributing to the growth of society.”
Scott Issen, a Glenview native who helped launch and leads the non-profit Future Founders Foundation, is aiming to expand the entrepreneurship coursework and Future Founders’ reach beyond the nine middle schools and high schools it serves. The Foundation in May received a $5,000 grant from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) to support education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). CompTIA, based in Downers Grove, partners with the Illinois Technology Association to boost classes in the STEM fields.
“We provide programs to inspire teenagers to explore new careers and connect them with successful mentors,” he said. “This kind of experience brings to life the concepts students are learning in school. A light goes on and the students realize they are learning skills they can use in the real world, immediately.”
Issen’s goal is to launch four or five new school program sites in Fall 2012 with Future Founders and Connect to the Future, the Foundation’s other program that connects professionals with students in 7th through 12th grades.
The Foundation also will host a “Taste of Chicago meets entrepreneurship” summer camp June 18-22 for 30 Future Founders students who compete for slots. The program will include field trips to tech companies, a Motorola Mobility mobile apps bootcamp, a presentation skills workshop that uses improv comedy and mentoring with entrepreneurs from Accenture, Microsoft and Motorola Solutions.
The Foundation is always seeking new mentors and “hands-on” experiences for its programs, Issen said.
Gerry Walanka, a Chicago entrepreneur who started “In Search of Genius” program to excite disadvantaged children in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades about science, said it’s vital that young people learn to do the homework and methodical planning required of successful business people.
“Entrepreneurship is exploring new things, and children are born with the instincts to do that,” said Walanka, whose program is doubling its presence to about 50 Chicago public schools next fall. “We need to get kids hooked on learning and on believing in who they are. Kids thrive on feeling like they’re doing a great job.”