Can We Scale Economic Opportunity?

By: Louisa Shepherd, Alumni Director at Let’s Innovate Through Education

Scalability – it’s a hot topic these days. An idea’s ability to scale is often a huge indicator of its success. More and more, entrepreneurs are discovering creative ways to scale everything from food delivery to the self-driving car. In Memphis, the big thinkers at Let’s Innovate through Education are applying the idea of scalability to economic opportunity with incredible results.

Let’s Innovate Through Education, or LITE, was founded in 2013 by teacher Hardy Farrow to tackle economic inequality by building an entrepreneurial pipeline designed to support minority business and create wealth in low-income communities.

Here’s how it works: Finalists begin in high school with an intensive six-month entrepreneurial curriculum that includes 1 on 1 coaching, access to diverse social networks and funding to launch entrepreneurial ideas. Unlike other programs aimed at high school students, LITE doesn’t end there: it has created a 10-year model to deliver business coaching, internships, and seed funding to students in college and into early adulthood when they’re prepared to launch their businesses.

How does this unique approach help scale economic opportunity? Research shows that the presence of a small cluster of successful businesses will create a “ripple effect,” making the surrounding community more likely to experience increased opportunity and business growth. LITE’s investment in entrepreneurship training builds the groundwork necessary for this ripple effect to take place and scale  to other areas in Memphis and beyond.

Since 2013, LITE has facilitated the launches of more than 75 student ideas, from an app that motivates teens with depression, to a website that helps animal adoption centers find homes for pets. These student ideas have  positively impacted hundreds of people in communities in Memphis and surrounding areas.

Though all of LITE’s participants are still in high school or college, the long-term support provided by the program will empower high-performing students with all of the resources and support they need to launch a business by age 25.

LITE Memphis will announce application information for the Winter 2017 Finalist cohort in April. To learn more about the program, visit www.LITEMemphis.com and subscribe to LITE’s monthly newsletter for updates and announcements.

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