Entrepreneurial programs prepare Williamson County students for success in college, careers and business.
Cutting-edge academic programs and schools that consistently rank among the top in the state give Williamson County a distinct advantage when attracting new businesses and talent. Both Williamson County Schools (WCS) and private schools have developed programs to better prepare the next generation for the workforce and life after graduation.
WCS offers more than 47 programs, including career and technical pathways ranging from culinary arts, hospitality and tourism to autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity and drones. In addition, the district’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) takes these pathways to the next level with courses that tap into students’ entrepreneurial spirit.
“The work we do at the EIC helps prepare students to be team players, to think on the fly, to be able to stand up and present and pitch ideas. They also learn to embrace failures and learn from those failures. All the soft skills they learn in this program make those students highly sought-after employees,” says Jeremy Qualls, executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, and College, Career and Technical Education for the district.
Qualls says about 400 high school students apply for the program, and half are accepted. Students are given real-world problems to solve and are then mentored by business leaders who help them develop their solutions to those problems into business ideas.
Students then pitch their ideas to local business owners in a “Shark Tank” style competition with real money up for grabs. Some of those ideas have even become viable businesses — for example, Green Box, a desktop planter subscription service.
“The students are trying to work with local nurseries to make this a reality, and they’re working with one of the attorneys we have on retainer to set up an LLC,” Qualls says.
In 2021, the EIC partnered with the Tennessee Titans creative team to help the football team develop a marketing strategy to attract more students to home games. After a few months of collaboration, EIC students pitched the NFL’s first student section.
Williamson County’s private schools also play a significant role in preparing the next generation of successful business leaders.
For example, the Sondra Morris and Robert N. Moore Jr. ’52 Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship at the Battle Ground Academy — a private K-12 college preparatory school located in Franklin — boasts a physical space similar to what students might find at some of the nation’s top business schools.
The school features classrooms and breakout spaces designed for collaborative learning, as well as a maker space with a 3D printer, laser cutters and a host of other technologically advanced prototyping tools.
“In the classrooms, our Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty are creating independent and creative thinkers. Faculty instill team-driven problem-solving skills through hands-on, real-world learning experiences created alongside a network of more than 50 local businesses and community leaders who provide case studies and serve as subject matter experts and mentors,” says Lauren Self, director of communications for Battle Ground Academy.
“Just as we want the educational opportunities we offer to be a reason people move to the area, we want BGA to be a reason businesses recruit in this area.”
Lauren Self, director of communications for Battle Ground Academy
“Students also find a supportive learning environment wherein they feel encouraged to fall forward, learn to pivot and build the resilience essential to launching a venture of their own and becoming the job creators of tomorrow.”
Self notes that while every student in the program may not go on to start a business, they are learning the skills that entrepreneurs use and need to be successful.
“Critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, adaptability, resilience — skills that are transferable to any academic discipline or career and essential to the continued economic growth in Williamson County,” Self says. “Our mission is to ignite and nurture student curiosity, intellect and character, and our college preparatory K-12 curriculum incrementally builds a skill set for success after high school.
“Just as we want the educational opportunities we offer to be a reason people move to the area, we want BGA to be a reason businesses recruit in this area,” she adds. “Nearly three-quarters of our 3,000-plus alumni live in Middle Tennessee, and we want a potential employer to see a Battle Ground Academy diploma on a resume and know that our graduates are strong writers, outstanding presenters and collaborative, adaptable, reliable workers.”
Want to know more?
To learn more about the Williamson County area, check out the latest edition of Livability Williamson County, TN.