From the Ground Up: Why Williamson County is the Perfect Place to Build a Business
Williamson County offers programs for students to develop and launch businesses.
When it comes to educating students, Williamson County is always on the leading edge, launching programs and developing spaces to better ready the next generation for the workforce and life after graduation.
Take Williamson County Schools, for example. In fall 2019, the district opened the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility near Franklin High School.
Students in grades 10-12 who attend one of the 10 Williamson County high schools can participate in the EIC and earn high school credit. Through three courses, they learn the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur, whether they want to start a business, launch a product or offer a service.
Courses include EI 1, in which students work in small groups to launch a business in an incubator style environment. In EI 2, student teams from EI 1 return for a second year to take their business idea from a startup to a fully launched business. EI Practicum provides students already operating their business with more of an independent-study experience that focuses on their product rather than on the entrepreneurship process.
"I'm almost a little bit jealous of not being able to have an opportunity like this when I was in school," says Jeremy Qualls, the EIC's executive director. "They come here and there is a lot of freedom involved, and the teachers do a remarkable job of proposing problems and letting them solve the tasks at hand that go along with the entrepreneurship curriculum that we use."
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And hands-on opportunities and credit are just the beginning of what students gain from taking part in the EIC, including access to the facility's Maker Space, Fabrication Lab and meeting rooms. They can also attend EIC pitch nights to present their business ideas, listen in on Speaker Series, where they can hear success/ failure stories from entrepreneurs, and meet with mentors from businesses in the community who offer them advice.
"Everything that you learn here is really based upon, 'How do I go from A to Z with a product?' and we're going to give you a curriculum to follow and then we're going to give you some mentors to help coach you along, too," Qualls says. "So I think that mind process is that if we had a successful business made, maybe those students could potentially land their business here in Williamson County."
Approximately 150 students are currently taking part in the EIC.
Arts & Businesses
The EIC isn't the only student-entrepreneurship facility that graces Williamson County. Battle Ground Academy (BGA) broke ground on the Sondra Morris and Robert N. Moore, Jr. '52 Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship in 2019. This building, which is slated to open in April 2021, will house the school's Performing Arts Program and its Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, which was launched in 2015 and is one of only a few four-year comprehensive entrepreneurship programs offered by a high school in the U.S.
Once completed, this two-floor facility will help these programs continue to thrive by providing a new 550-seat theater and classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, a maker space and a set-design area, among other things. This will open students up to greater learning opportunities, better paving pathways to success.
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"We are thrilled because it really puts this kind of spearhead to our program – what we're trying to do," says Hallie Heiter, the director of BGA's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. "We even have a building to say, 'Hey, this is so important to the way that we educate students at BGA that it needs to have the distinction of having its own ecospace – having its own place to grow and bring these experiences to students. It's going to be great."
If you'd like to learn more about the Williamson County area, check out the latest edition of Livability Williamson County, TN.