CEOs of Tomorrow empowering young entrepreneurs

A Madison-based nonprofit is helping young entrepreneurs develop business solutions to issues in their own communities.

“We work with a large population of kids of color,” said Roxie Hentz, executive director of CEOs of Tomorrow. “We are empowering our young people.”

In the past year, she’s guided participants through the process of building companies related to social issues, such as homelessness, racial health disparities, pollution and more.

Last semester, nine business ideas were piloted by kids in CEOs of Tomorrow. One project involved selling earbuds and using the proceeds to support immigrants, while another focused on the use of compostable or even edible straws to mitigate ocean pollution.

A third project involved selling pre-made soup kits in jars. For every jar purchased, another would go to homeless people in the Madison area.

“They addressed ocean pollution, animal cruelty, discrimination — lots of social issues of importance to them,” Hentz said. “Just really creative ideas, and we’re excited to see that happen.”

Hentz has a busy year ahead as she prepares for an upcoming fundraising event, an intern partnership program, a two-week boot camp and an international trip to Africa.

This will be the second year she’s putting on an introductory internship program, where businesses bring on program participants as short-term summer interns. She’s currently in the process of securing partners for this year.

“I know I’m biased, but we have the best, brightest teens,” Hentz said. “They are a breath of fresh air.”

Before that can take place, Hentz is throwing a fundraiser event called “Cirque de la Entrepreneur” May 11 at Madison College. That will include live entertainment, prizes for kids and other activities.

“We’re looking forward to bringing our community together,” Hentz said.

Also planned for the summer, the “Business of Giving” boot camp will host kids 4th through 8th grade at Edgewood College in Madison. Participants in the two-week boot camp will launch small businesses, with a focus on food injustice and homelessness.

Once the fundraising campaign wraps up, Hentz will be taking participants to Gaborone, Botswana in August where they will work together with local kids to launch businesses that will impact local communities.

Listen to a recent podcast with Hentz:

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–By Alex Moe