Youth Entrepreneurs (Kansas and Missouri)

  • Local Projects
  • 1991

Charles Koch is known for distilling the rules that make free markets work, and applying them to both his business endeavors and his philanthropy. He began this in his hometown of Wichita, where he became CEO of Koch Industries at age 32 and expanded the company 2,800-fold to $100 billion in revenues and 67,000 employees.

As he looked around Wichita in the late 1980s, Koch saw few people who knew how to run companies in ways that would both maximize their value and benefit American society. He decided to start a nonprofit that would teach young people those things.

He founded Youth Entrepreneurs with his wife, Liz, in 1991. It was open to any high-school students, but targeted at-risk youth. It started out as an eight-week program at Wichita High School North that was later expanded into a two-semester course. It teaches the basics of entrepreneurship through hands-on experience as well as classroom training. The students write business plans, are encouraged to use them to launch businesses, and get not only academic credit but chances to do internships at local businesses, to be mentored, to win scholarships, and get venture-capital funding. The program was offered in 41 high schools across Kansas and Missouri as of 2015.

The program graduates more than a thousand students every year. Compared to their peers, its alums demonstrate better business skills and are more likely to pursue higher education (by 58 percent to 32 percent).