Entrepreneurship at a young age stimulates creativity and the economy

Kelsey Quandt of Stromsburg loves history and loves to sew. She combined both passions into a home-based business called the Venetian Costume Shoppe. 

Kelsey Quandt creates historical clothing
Stromsburg's Kelsey Quandt creates historical clothing for her Venetian Costume Shoppe.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln sophomore, who is majoring in history with an emphasis in historical clothing, designs and creates historical costumes. She sells them through her business and through the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, which stocks her little girl pioneer dresses. 

Quandt is a successful example of UNL extension’s emphasis on youth entrepreneurship in Nebraska. That emphasis culminated in the completion of a curriculum called EntrepreneurShip Investigation (ESI), which is designed to teach youth how to be entrepreneurs, said Patricia Fairchild, 4-H curriculum designer and youth entrepreneurship specialist. 

“There’s a huge emphasis on economic development and a big desire to keep youth in Nebraska, specifically in rural Nebraska,” Fairchild said. 

The ESI curriculum is based on three years of planning and work, including research and focus groups. ESI has been presented to nearly 500 middle school students statewide, Fairchild said. Extension also plans to add ESI curriculum for high school students. 

 Studies done by Gallup for UNL have indicated that 69 percent of high school students are interested in starting their own business but 94 percent of them feel unprepared to do so. ESI teaches students what they need to know to become an entrepreneur, how they can determine businesses that might be right for them and how to complete a business plan.

  ESI wasn't in existence when Quandt started her business, but she said 4-H gave her the skills she needed to begin. Her business, in fact, was spurred by a 4-H project. Her mother suggested she make a Civil War dress for a 4-H project and after she did so realized she had found her niche.

Brett Nunnenkamp - the Country Pumpkin
Brett Nunnenkamp's The Country Pumpkin in Sutton features pumpkins and gourds.

4-H, she said, “taught me persistence and creativity” and also gave her a spirit of competition to improve upon historical dresses she was finding already made in stores and on Web sites. 

“The competitive side of 4-H helped me realize that I could do a lot better,” she said.

  While brother and sister Brett and Ashley Nunnenkamp started their own businesses for FFA projects, each agree 4-H taught them skills important in their operations. 

Brett owns The Country Pumpkin, which sells pumpkins and gourds from his home in Sutton. He also sells wholesale to some retail establishments. A UNL horticultural graduate, the 24-year-old has operated the business since he was 13. His experience with 4-H helped him learn more about recordkeeping, Ashley, 17, is in her fifth year of running The Blossom Barn, which sells freshly cut flowers to florists in Hastings, Grand Island, Aurora and York. She starts the flowers from seed in a greenhouse she established this year and grows them in a three-fourths acre garden.

Brett Nunnenkamp - the Country Pumpkin
Ashley Nunnenkamp of Sutton is in her fifth year of running her flower shop business, The Blossom Barn.

The incoming UNL food science and technology freshman said the lessons she learned from 4-H “taught me responsibility. When you start something you need to finish it and work hard to achieve what you want to achieve.”


— Lori McGinnis