The Growing Entrepreneurs Program is a powerful, two-year program designed by youth, for youth. Through the program, Gather New Haven works with high school students in the New Haven community to develop their own small-business ventures to solve problems they identify in their community, developing their professional and entrepreneurial skills, training them in farming and carpentry, expanding their understanding of environmental issues, and building their sense of character.
All of this is accomplished by having students actively participate as employees of Gather New Haven– developing skills in agriculture and carpentry by working on small projects at community gardens and farms sites and participating in business ventures such as the Saturday Farm Stand and assisting with produce wholesale to local restaurants. They are then encouraged to develop an idea for a business venture that would positively impact the environment and the New Haven community.
The students develop their ventures, creating mission statements, establishing financial details, and creating business plans and presentations for their unique business ventures. Students simultaneously gain carpentry and gardening experience while also working on projects for Gather New Haven as well as several existing program business ventures.
The Growing Entrepreneurs build raised garden beds, fences, and pergolas at community gardens around the city. They also build raised beds and compost systems for private homeowners. The students grow vegetables to sell at the Ferry Street Farm Stand, the CitySeed Fair Haven Farmers Market, and for New Haven restaurants. As of Spring 2020, the Growing Entrepreneurs have sold and installed over 50 raised garden beds to private customers and hundreds of pounds of produce to local restaurants.
The program is designed to strengthen the students in five key areas: professional skills, entrepreneurship, understanding of environmental issues, gardening and carpentry skills, and character skills. The experiences and skills gained from the program help prepare students for secondary education, future careers, and potential future ventures as well as helping them to become better stewards of their own health and of our environment. In turn, the students strengthen the organization as critical employees who bring new ideas, a fresh perspective, and hard work to our farms, gardens, and organization.