Youth Zone, Oct. 11: Club turns kids into executives

Published Saturday October 11, 2008

By Carol Bicak, World-Herald Staff Writer

Janita Pavelka
Janita Pavelka

You're a teenager and you have an idea for your own company. You just know you could make a success of it.

But how do you get started? What do you need in the way of financial support? Who is out there to help young entrepreneurs?

Omaha-area teens have a place to go to find answers to those questions and many more: the E-ship Club (E for entrepreneurship).

Leader-instructor Janita Pavelka, who has bachelor's degrees in social work and education, got started by helping her own children start their businesses.

"But I had the desire to teach others," she said.

She attended the Entrepreneurship Educators Conference in Charleston, S.C. There she met the Nebraska 4-H curriculum team members who had developed the material for the EntrepreneurShip Investigation curriculum.

She started teaching students in the Omaha Homeschool Learning Center and gave workshops for high schoolers at Metropolitan Community College, Bellevue University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This summer, she taught in the College for Teens program at Metro.

"This fall, I wanted to bring it out to the whole community," Pavelka said.

And the E-ship Club was born.

It meets at 6 p.m. every third Monday of the month, through May. The next meeting is Oct. 20.

It doesn't matter if students missed the first meeting. New club members — from any area school — are welcome.

Forty-three people attended the first meeting. That's about 10 families, Pavelka said.

Pavelka said she wants parents to get involved with their teenagers because without that family involvement, the students' projects can't succeed.

"You need families," Pavelka said. "Parents and I work together to set up an agenda."

The monthly three-hour sessions are divided into sections: expert testimony from guest speakers, lessons from the ESI manual and working in small groups with others who have similar interests.

Former students are quick to urge budding business people to learn from Pavelka.

Aunie Millon took a Pavelka class at the Homeschool Learning Center.

"When I started this class," Millon said in an e-mail, "I had a few ideas for businesses I could run, but to me they were out of reach or too small to bother with."

But with Pavelka's guidance, Millon decided on a snack food business — pretzel rods dipped in chocolate and other toppings — and has made a success of it.

Kylee Gwinn took Pavelka's Mind Your Own Business class at Metro, and her Doggie Delights Gift Baskets business is going strong.

It "really helped me a lot, I learned about product marketing, profit/mark-up, greeting and overall selling," she said in an e-mail.

"She showed me that making your own money your own way on your own time is great. I have put everything I learned into practice."

The E-ship Club will offer members the same kind of opportunities. There is no charge for the class, although students are asked to pay for the curriculum workbook.

The classes aren't just theoretical. Members will develop real products and have a chance to show them off at product expos. There also will be monthly field trips.

Interested people can e-mail Pavelka for more information at

• Contact the writer: 444-1067,