Updated: Oct 29, 2019
A Series Taking a Closer Look at the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs and the People Ensuring Their Success
Generation Z expects their salary for their first job out of college to be $46,799. The Ultimate Guide to Generation Z, found that Gen Z job seekers have high expectations when it comes to their salaries and 60% want their jobs to impact the world. But where does the emoji generation stand on creating their own enterprise and who is overseeing their future as entrepreneurs?
Britney Robbins, Founder of The Gray Matter Experience (@graymatterexp)
What inspired you to get involved with youth and encourage your stduents to pursue entrepreneurship?
I grew up with two parents who were entrepreneurs and I watched them struggle to figure things out. When I moved to Chicago, I worked within a VC and several tech incubators and co-working spaces and often times saw no minority representation in these spaces designed for entrepreneurs. In my day to day, I was already working for an organization that was helping to expose students to the concept of business creation, but wasn’t doing enough to teach them how to really run a business—the ins and outs. My solution is—teach students early—how to operate a business and they’ll be much better prepared and equipped as adults to create businesses that help to drive economic growth in and outside of their communities.
What are your thoughts on choosing the coding camp or entrepreneurship over the traditional 4-year college degree? (Do you see added value in having a college degree prior to attending a boot camp or deciding to be your own boss?)
I think there are several ways to educate yourself and you should never limit yourself to just one. In this day in age, knowledge is all around us, you just have to be willing to sacrifice your time and money to invest in yourself. If that’s taking time to attend a college/university—then that’s what you do. If you feel you’ll be better served creating your own itinerary of classes, bootcamps, peer learning, then pursue that route. There is no one prescription fits all anymore and I believe that students should truly evaluate how they learn and find ways to foster the way of learning that serves them best. But whatever the route, never stop learning. Whether you take a year to figure it out – read books, find a mentor, take a few free online classes, hop on YouTube and teach yourself a new skill. The information is all around us, you just have to be willing to work for it.
When you started Gray Matter Experience, how did you envision your role as an advocate of youth and entrepreneurship?
My goal is always to be a resource and catalyst for growth to my students. I always aim to leverage the knowledge, resources and network I’ve built to help the students begin building and growing their own entrepreneurial and business toolkits. I advocate for them and serve as a voice for them at the tables I get to sit at. So that in the future, things are made much more equitable and accessible for students wanting to pursue entrepreneurship seriously and be taken seriously. I will continue to use my platform to open doors and create opportunities for these brilliant youth who will ultimately be the voices, change and innovators of our future.
What advice would you give to a high school graduate having a hard time deciding next steps for their career?
Find programs and opportunities to get as much exposure to different industries, skill sets and people as you can. Whether it’s joining a meetup group, attending a free conference, taking an online course in something that seems interesting, finding a mentor that you’re drawn to, reading blogs and articles about topics you’re interested in – find ways to get more exposure to the people, places and things you find interesting and explore it as much as you can. That exploration will often times lead you directly down the career path you want or connect you to the people who can give you more insight about the industry or provide you opportunities to try things out until you figure out what it is you want to be and do. Immerse yourself in your city, community and it’s resources – don’t be afraid to try something new, step out of your comfort zone or even fail – it’s all a part of the game and the more you’re able to practice these concepts early, the more resilience you’ll build within yourself.
Gray Matter is an entrepreneurial experience program for high school students across the city of Chicago. The program consists of a series of engaging workshops comprised of team building activities, group and individual tasks, discussions, guest speakers, and fun and engaging field trips.
Participating students learn business concepts from entrepreneurs and professionals and then use that knowledge to create businesses to help impact communities on the South and West sides of the city. Students are encouraged to launch their businesses and will be placed in relevant internships and mentorships to ensure their success.