Thursday, April 4, 2013

Boys Grow: Growing Entrepreneurs in Kansas City

It’s true—entrepreneurship is growing in Kansas City every day.  But one organization is taking that statement literally. Boys Grow, a two-year agricultural entrepreneurship program, empowers inner-city boys to learn entrepreneurship through hands-on experience.

The boys involved in Boys Grow spend time on a farm planting crops, tending the land, building chicken coops, harvesting honey from bee boxes and other daily farm tasks. When they’re not working on the farm, they’re out selling what they make with the produce they grow – salsa, agave ketchup, and (coming soon!) barbecue sauce.

John Gordon, creator of the program, recently spoke with The Pitch about Boys Grow. Of the program, he says,

"I wanted to create something that kids really do. It's not fluff. It's not for show. They have to make decisions, and anything they learn, they'll have to apply directly. There is always stuff to be done on a farm. Life slows down, and you have to take a deep breath. There's responsibility and discipline and dedication. That's where this idea for a functional, working type of youth farm started.”

The program has struck a chord with the community, with a slew of restaurants and grocery stores signing up to carry Boys Grow products, and was recently chosen to receive a proclamation by the Missouri House of Representatives.

The unique blend of agriculture, mentoring and entrepreneurship provides a potent mixture for inner-city boys in need of guidance. The ability to form relationships with other budding entrepreneurs while simultaneously learning how to grow a business is extremely empowering for participants in the program. Boys Grow isn’t about hand-holding because the boys genuinely direct the majority of the program and decide how far to take it.

Entrepreneurship in Kansas City takes many forms, and the Boys Grow program is investing in the future of the KC community. Of the future, Gordon says, "In reality, we're trying to farm entrepreneurs as much as plants. We're trying to unleash a whole new crop on the city."

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