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In the huddle with youth entrepreneurs

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees always has a game plan as he leads his offense down the field. This season, though, he’s keeping a close eye on some emerging plans off the field as well.

Brees is at the helm of the new Trust Your Crazy Ideas Challenge, an entrepreneurship program coordinated by his own charitable Brees Dream Foundation and the Idea Village, a local nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is a critical piece to growing more jobs and expanding the city’s business community,” says Idea Village co-founder and CEO Tim Williamson. “What Drew does is connect kids to the excitement of this; he makes them see entrepreneurship as something that is cool and something that they can really do themselves.”

The Trust Your Crazy Ideas Challenge is an after-school project that tasks teams of students from four New Orleans public schools – Edna Karr Secondary School, Lusher Charter School, Walter L. Cohen Sr. High School and Warren Easton Senior High School – with launching a for-profit business to fund school projects. The student teams work in “brainstorming rooms” at their schools equipped and supplied by technology giant Google and Idea Paint, a company that makes specialty paint that essentially turns walls into giant dry-erase boards on which students can hash out their ideas. Teachers and local business owners affiliated with the Idea Village are helping the students develop their plans, which they’ll pitch to a panel of judges including Brees himself.

The winning team will be chosen in December, when the Brees Dream Foundation will match up to $10,000 in revenue generated by the winning team’s business to be used for school projects. The winning team will also be invited to pitch its plan to business leaders attending the Idea Village’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in March 2011.

The program marks the first foray by the Idea Village into local schools, a move that Williamson says underscores the importance of fostering future business leaders early.

“Long term, we hope this helps build the next generation of entrepreneurs in New Orleans,” he says. “If we start at the high school level, getting New Orleanians to think of themselves as entrepreneurs from that age on, then I think this city will really see some great things happening down the line.”


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