The Beginning of the Youth Entrepreneurship Movement for Low-Income High School Students, Part Three: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

We did have our share of setbacks. Our lead manager was lured back to street life soon after he was released from Ogden. The kids were encouraged to say on board at Jersey Mikes but were expected to stay out of trouble. Tragically, our lead manager was out late one night when he was confronted by a local gang, chased and ended up falling from a tall building, breaking his neck, which paralyzed him.

In another incident, a local group of junior high kids attempted to rob the restaurant. They didn't realize one of their older brothers was behind the counter. Luckily it all ended with the staff talking the kinds down with levity. They even got the group to join the local Boys and Girls Club.

Eventually, the program became unmanageable as the resources required to keep the educational component afloat were unsustainable.

We also had a health incident that we had not anticipated: two of the young workers had hepatitis. The sales dropped as word of these issues spread. The final straw was when one of the managers, who had been hired outside of the company, got caught stealing money.

Discouraged, we first handed over the restaurant to the workers and cut out the training program, which required two extra workers and extra transportation. We thought the well-trained students would be able to keep it going. But the first day we withdrew the extra support, things began to unravel. The first sign was that the young owners started to smoke at work while making the sandwiches. It was horrible to walk into a restaurant and smell smoke everywhere. Soon, business began to suffer and the young entrepreneurs wanted a loan. Painfully short of capital and tired, we decided not to make it and the business closed after four years of operation at the end of the week.