Engler LAUNCH! program sparks Nebraska FFA enterprises

by Halle Ramsey | Engler Entreprenuership

LAUNCH!
The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Nebraska FFA Foundation have partnered in recent years to do just that through Launch! a year-long program that provides coaching and other resources to teams of high school students in Nebraska as they ideate, plan, launch and grow a school-based enterprise.
April 6, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. —Empowering youth through entrepreneurial education and real-world business experience is a crucial component to ensuring the economic growth of Nebraska. The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Nebraska FFA Foundation have partnered in recent years to do just that through Launch! a year-long program which provides coaching and other resources to teams of high school students in Nebraska as they ideate, plan, launch and grow a school-based enterprise. School-based enterprises are student-led profit-generating businesses that operate from a school building or facility. Typically, these businesses are formally owned by the school which alleviates liability risk for participating students.  

Since its inception in 2018, Launch! has helped over 20 schools and 100 students build businesses that benefit not only students but entire communities, “A program like this has the ability to empower youth in rural Nebraska to create their own opportunities in their hometowns. Launch! not only starts school-based enterprises but ignites the flame of entrepreneurship in future world-changers,” Miranda Hornung, a senior agriculture education major who serves as one of the lead Launch! facilitators said.  

This year, five participating chapters from across the state are taking advantage of the resources provided through Launch! to start and grow businesses representing a myriad of sectors, from homemade beef jerky to tree removal services. These students and instructors are taught the entrepreneurial mindset and process of starting a business through in-person events and monthly check-in calls with Engler staff which cover topics such as ideation, sales strategies, marketing and customer discovery. Several business pitching opportunities are offered throughout the year that allow access to additional funding provided by generous donors of the Nebraska FFA Foundation.  

Since the beginning of this year’s cohort in the spring, teams have experienced significant pivots to their original business ideas. For example, Boyd County began Launch! with the intent to start a cedar tree cutting and removal service, Prairie Dog Cedar. After only the first few weeks in the program, students discovered there was further market opportunity than simply removing the trees. Now, their business model also includes creating a value-added product: wood coasters.  

“My students found value in connecting with our community for resources, mentorship and marketing purposes. Through Launch! my students have learned how they can create their own opportunities to return to rural communities,” Katie Nolles, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Boyd County Public Schools, said.  

Perhaps one of the most unique components of the program is its emphasis on creating student ownership. For the businesses started through Launch! to be sustainable, students must be fully invested in the business idea and assume responsibility for its daily operations. By identifying genuine needs in their communities, students develop real solutions that benefit stakeholders. This was exactly the case for the Meridian FFA Chapter, who identified access to fresh and high-quality produce was limited in their hometown. Now, they are fulfilling this need in their community by growing and selling produce from the school’s greenhouse.   

“One of the biggest lightbulb moments is when students realize that they're not too young to start a business. They have each found how they can use their talents to find roles on the team and serve our community,” Sarah Hebda, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Meridian Public Schools, said.  

 Launch! is an innovative approach to introducing entrepreneurial education in high school students at the height of their career exploration journey. Through the expertise provided by the Engler program and resources of the Nebraska FFA Foundation, students across the state are given the chance to truly serve their schools as they gain entrepreneurial experience that will pay dividends on an individual and community-level, potentially for years to come.  

The next round of Launch! will begin this coming August. To learn how to apply, please reach out to Brennan Costello, Chief Business Relations Officer (bcostello3@unl.edu).  

News Release Contact

  • Brennan Costello
  • Chief Business Relations Officer
  • Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
  • email-2(email)bcostello3@unl.edu

Tags

Entrepreneurship