I volunteer with Junior Achievement where I coach three Brooklyn Technical High School student teams to develop business plans, from scratch, for the 2015 JA New York Business Plan Competition.
This particular volunteer opportunity combines two things that mean a lot to me – entrepreneurship and Brooklyn, the borough where I grew up. The JA New York Business Plan Competition is a nice reminder of what originally sparked my interest in starting a business. It is not about raising rounds, or valuations, or press coverage; it is about creating cool products and services that fascinate and inspire people. It is about creating seemingly “magical” products that revolutionize the way people do work and go about their daily lives. Listening to my students brainstorming ideas, and seeing them become excited about the potential impact of their business ventures is a great reminder of why I walk the entrepreneurship path.
From personal experience, I know how hard it is to find mentors and thought partners when you are in the early stages of building a business. Through this opportunity, I have learned how important it is for young people to develop a core set of transferable career skills – the kind of skills that transcend any single position, function, or industry, for example, the ability to collaborate, to think critically, and to solve problems.
While growing up, I was lucky to get glimpses into the working world. Unfortunately, far too often those glimpses were into the same narrow industries–law, finance, and medicine. For high school students, it can feel quite limiting to be steered toward these traditional career paths. This is why it makes sense for more business professionals of all ages and of all backgrounds to volunteer with Junior Achievement. Our experiences, knowledge, and insights have the power to open up a world of possibilities for young people by showing them the endless potential in the new economy to pursue different paths to success and career satisfaction.
ABOUT XAVIER STEWART
Born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New Yorker, Xavier Stewart, is the Co-Founder and CEO of a tech start-up, Driven Labs. Driven Labs develops innovative tech tools to support independently owned and operated automotive repair shops. Xavier is a graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where he studied political science and history. After graduating from college, he worked on two mayoral campaigns for former NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Xavier then worked for the Bloomberg administration as the Avenue NYC program manager in New York City’s Department of Small Business Services.