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Building Business Savvy

MTA LEAD Gives Teenage Entrepreneurs a Head Start

MTA LEAD (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Advisement and Development) is a unique program designed to provide Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) students with lasting business and communal leadership skills through both high school and University-level leadership training. Intended for students interested in creating new business or social enterprises that can help change the world, this hands-on initiative—started in 2011—focuses on the creation, evaluation, development and launch-readiness of new business or social ventures.

Sy Syms School of Business Associate Dean Michael Strauss Sy Syms School of Business Associate Dean Michael Strauss

“Four years ago, when I was approached to become the entrepreneur-in-residence for this program, I was very excited and I’ve only become more so,” said Associate Dean of Sy Syms School of Business and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Michael Strauss. “Lots of students have great ideas but don’t know how to bring them from concept to implementation. I help students refine their thinking, develop viable business plans and funding plans and direct them to patent lawyers as necessary. I make myself personally accessible to each and every one of them, and I do it because I love to do it.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Dr. Seth Taylor, principal for general studies. “It's another great way we at MTA can leverage the resources of the University not found in any other high school. With unique access to the Sy Syms School of Business, we create an environment in which passion and drive can be fueled with world-class knowledge and expertise. We recognize that different students have different talents and we encourage our entrepreneurial students to innovate.”

MTA LEAD participants are mentored by industry leaders and are included in the Doris and Dr. Ira Kukin Entrepreneurial and Executive Lecture Series at Sy Syms. The program empowers students to build on entrepreneurial ideas to create meaningful and sustainable business projects. Students work in teams to develop a new venture idea and gain experience, applying entrepreneurship as a problem-solving tool for creating social and economic value.

“About 40 kids start at the kickoff of the program,” said Joshua Jacoby, executive director of Yeshiva University High Schools. “They may not necessarily have an idea yet. They might simply want to explore an interest in business and gain unparalleled access to top-notch professors and prominent executives. LEAD gives them that chance.”

Students work through a series of structured peer activities and assignments that correspond with each phase of the new venture planning. Throughout the program, students refine their venture’s hypothesized business model based on feedback from their instructors, visiting experts and peers. At each stage of the venture plan development, students learn critical terms, apply tools that support their research and decision-making and develop a deeper understanding of how each major planning activity fits into formal venture creation.

201510256_MTA_LEAD_Strauss_037“At the program’s culmination, they actually present their project to a panel of Executive Council members, and by that point, it's pretty advanced,” said Jacoby. “Recent examples of presentations have included revolutionizing 3-D printing, titanium dioxide nanoparticle-infused self-cleaning paint for cars, and a pillow alarm clock that vibrates to wake and which can be controlled from an iPhone app."

The winning student or team receives a gift card and the council finds a business leader who will continue to mentor them going forward. Students are also assigned graduate students as mentors as they continue to develop their projects and Sy Syms professors provide workshops on business communications, entrepreneurship and marketing. The winners have the opportunity to present at the Sy Syms Business Plan Competition, a college-level contest that pits their projects against enterprises created by undergraduate students. “MTA LEAD is a very exciting opportunity,” said Strauss. “Talent can be spotted even at such a young age, and it’s a special honor to help cultivate that.”