Interview with Executive Director, NFTE: Julie Silard Kantor

By | 2010/12/05

This is one of the first interviews on CollegeFallOut. Here is the one-on-one exclusive interview with the Executive Director for NFTE (Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship) – Julie Silard Kantor. NFTE is one of the premier organizations which helps students in realizing their enterepreneurial potential.

Julia Silard Kantor - NFTE

Julia Silard Kantor - NFTE

In this interview she tells us about NFTE’s efforts to teach entrepreneurship. She also talks about the amazing trend where entrepreneurs are getting younger each passing day.

If you want to find some interesting entrepreneurship related statistics then you must read this interview. You can find her on Twitter here:


  1. First off, we all would like to know what is NFTE all about?

Today, NFTE is widely viewed as a world leader in promoting entrepreneurial literacy—helping youth achieve greater academic, personal, professional and financial success.  Close to 50,000 young people now participate in NFTE programs each year.  Our primary target audience is urban, low-income youth ages 11-18.

Since 1987 NFTE has:

·         Reached over 232,000 low-income youth

·         Trained more than 4,200 teachers and youth professionals

·         Launched programs in 22 states and 11 countries.

Established 12 regional offices in: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fairchester (Westchester NY & Fairfield CT), Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

The need for programs like NFTE that engage students in learning is becoming increasingly evident. In a survey commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the dropout epidemic in our schools, a majority of high school students believe school instruction should be more relevant and engaging, to demonstrate the connection between school and work: “Four out of five (81 percent) said there should be more opportunities for real-world learning. They said students need to see the connection between school and getting a good job.” The Gates Foundation report recommends that “schools should develop options for students, including a curriculum that connects what they are learning in the classroom with real life experiences and with work.” NFTE can help address  high dropout rates through entrepreneurship education that uses experiential learning and real world concepts to keep students engaged in learning and reduce their risk for dropping out.

In a world where globalization has created a competitive work environment, those with fully developed business skills have a valuable advantage.  Entrepreneurial learning at an early age can dramatically expand cultural perspectives, economic opportunities, and the ability of young people to grow into effective leaders for our nation and the world.

2. How has the NFTE helped young entrepreneurs to realize their ambitions?

Working in partnership with schools, community-based organizations and teachers ,  NFTE impacts students’ basic academic and life skills through a hands-on entrepreneurship curriculum that reinforces math, reading and writing, and develops skills in critical thinking, teamwork, communication and decision-making. The curriculum covers and simplifies for young people a range of important topics — such as goal-setting, return on investment (both in business and in weighing out personal life decisions), supply and demand, opportunity recognition, personal finance, cost/benefit analysis, sales and marketing, venture capital, business ethics, debt vs. equity financing, and taxes — that are usually only found in post-graduate MBA courses. Management expert Peter Drucker once said that the weakest skill of beginning entrepreneurs was their business plans. As the centerpiece of the NFTE program, all students create, and present — in front of peers and often outside judges — a concise, viable business plan.

NFTE programs are taught in a variety of settings, including public schools, community-based organizations and summer BizCamps (a term trademarked by NFTE), and range in duration from 40-100 hours.  The NFTE program emphasizes learning by doing.  Experiential learning activities include site visits to local wholesale districts or discount stores, combined with selling events and recordkeeping, interacting with local entrepreneurs, and a business plan competition that often offers modest cash

prizes to the winners.  NFTE classes may be offered as “stand-alone” entrepreneurship course, or infused with economics, math, or other related subjects.

Community volunteers and business mentors play an essential role in bringing the real world into the classroom, connecting concepts to real-life situations and opportunities.  At the same time that students are gaining exposure to the principles of entrepreneurship, they are also learning the basics of math, reading, and writing — often without realizing it.  All of this together helps students (who might otherwise be at risk of dropping out of school) to develop the confidence and skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Youth entrepreneurship education does work and the best way to illustrate its impact is through the achievements of program graduates. In 2008, recognized two NFTE students among America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs:  (1) Jasmine Lawrence, 17 years old of New Jersey, President & CEO of EDEN Body Works (natural hair and body care solutions); and (2) Ippy Amatul-Wadud, 19 years old from Boston, President & CEO of Ippy’s Islamic Fashions (clothing design company).

3. What is the entrepreneurial potential that you have seen in the low-income communities?

Founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, a former business owner and New York City public high school teacher, the mission of NFTE (  is to provide entrepreneurship education programs to youth from low-income communities.  Our vision is that every young person will find a pathway to prosperity. As a math teacher in the South Bronx, Mariotti first established NFTE as a literacy and dropout prevention program for at-risk youth when he noticed that many of his students who could not read or write and had essentially been “written off” by the system, demonstrated a natural talent for entrepreneurship.  Further, he discovered that his “troubled” students had skills that, if fostered, could benefit them in business and in life.  These insights led him to formalize an entrepreneurship curriculum and establish NFTE as a way to introduce concepts of wealth creation and ownership to low-income young people worldwide.

NFTE uses entrepreneurship as a vehicle to engage students in school, expose them to the market economy and help to create an entrepreneurial mindset in order to remain competitive in the increasingly global marketplace.

NFTE’s strategy for achieving this mission is to:

  • Partner with schools
  • Create innovative, experiential and relevant curricula
  • Train and support teachers
  • Provide supportive alumni services
  • Evaluate student outcomes

4. What is your take on Entrepreneurs getting younger and younger?

Its really where we are going Globally– there are so many great examples of young success stories– look at the founders of Facebook, Youtube… Bill Gates…  I heard at a conference recently that over 1 billion youth will be entering the workforce globally in the next 10 years– but there will only be 300 million jobs created– EEEKS— we need entrepreneurs to build, to innovate, to create jobs– this is REAL!

I also see a lot of young people deciding they dont want to work for a big corporation.  They want more freedom and to build themselves– its an amazing phenomenon and 1:2 people now work for a small business so we should really encourage young people to creat their own pathways and have many options in their lives, especially when the average American will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38– you will — we all will– need an ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET– for survival!

There are indications that interest in entrepreneurship from American youth is increasing.  A recent survey in 2007 of Americans aged 8-21[1] found that:

·        40% of those surveyed said they would like to start a business someday.

·        63% said that if they worked hard, they could successfully start a new company.

·        59% knew someone who had started a business.

·        26% agreed that starting a business would be more desirable than other career opportunities.

I am very excited about a new report by the World Economic Forum a few days ago on the importance of Global Youth Entrepreneurship Education– NFTE’s founder Steve Mariotti wrote the youth section– here are some details:

— World Economic Forum releases

“Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs”

Unlocking entrepreneurial capabilities to meet the global challenges of the 21st Century <>

Announcement of the report and World Economic Forum’s engagement

THIS IS HUGE– the wind is there– we as a country need to get sailing on this one!! Especially now!!


[1] “Kauffman Foundation Survey Finds Youth Energetic about Entrepreneurship,”  Kauffman Foundation Press Release, December 10, 2007.  Available at

5. Tell us something about your blog- Youthentrepreneurshiplady.

My blog is really an experiment in social media– I have a passion for writing and marketing even though its not my main focus (my main focus is to scale entrepreneurship education in America through key alliance buildings– US Department of Education, Labor, Justice, Aspen Institute Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group I run– see ) There is so much going on right now in our country, with our new administration, with youth and education– I am enjoying using my blog , facebook, twitter, slideshare to be a key resource for this powerful and growing field of youth entrepreneurship education.  I feel that we are sitting on a gold mine of potential to make a difference in the world and with youth and the economy– so many people are interested now in entrepreneurship– they however, do not know how it can scale and be implemented in a significant way– I feel like we are in a race to get that info and knowledge ‘out there’ as the field is still green and growing and we need major champions in all sectors …

I am really excited to share a new presentation we just built and posted Tanya’s Story- Youth Entrepreneurship in America

6. What is the motivation that drives you to become an entrepreneur?

Oh G-d — its in my blood!!  I see the world now all through an entrepreneurial mindset. Being an entrepreneur in one’s life, work, family, decision making– everything has given me huge joy and freedom.  I wouldn’t want to be any other way– most of my friends are entrepreneurial too– its a mindset–

My father escaped from Hungary at the age of 18 to be FREE for ‘The American Dream,’ (the last 4 letters of the word Amer-ican are ‘I CAN’)  I feel very strongly that every young person should have the opportunity to explore their entrepreneurial potential.  I wrote a book about my personal growth and pathway as a social entrepreneur — I started at the age of 22– its called “I Said Yes! Real Life Stories of Teachers Youth and Leaders Saying YES! to Entrepreneurship in America’s Schools“

Thank you, Mrs. Kantor for the insights on NFTE and entrepreneurship. I am sure my readers enjoyed and learned from it!

2 thoughts on “Interview with Executive Director, NFTE: Julie Silard Kantor

  1. Jack | TeenBusinessForum

    Wait, this is awesome! I know her! Not sure how you know to pick her to interview since she’s all the way across the other half of the world. Actually, good questions as well. Is there a NFTE around where you live?

    1. Vivek Krishnan Post author

      @Jack- Haha…well Jack, she sent me an email where she appreciated my blog. Then I figured…why not interview her! so…thats how it happened.

      Nope, there is no NFTE in my part of the world.


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