Students Study Sustainable Entrepreneurship

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Tompkins Weekly 5-3-15

By New Roots Staff

What if every high school introductory business course began with a lesson about sustainability? At New Roots Charter School, they do!

This spring a dozen students at New Roots created business plans to study the social, environmental and financial profitability of their own entrepreneurial ideas in their Sustainable Entrepreneurship class. They began their course learning measures of triple bottom line as a well as other sustainability concepts as they researched for their own plans and practiced basic budgeting, marketing and presentations skills for their ideas. Each week the students looked at businesses in New Root’s downtown Ithaca neighborhood.

Many businesses, locally and nationally, consider sustainability a competitive advantage. A sustainable enterprise’s triple bottom line goes beyond typical measures of profit to include environmental and social dimensions. New Roots prepares students to be leaders in this field, which requires a more holistic, interdisciplinary perspective on business and systems thinking and analysis.

Their teacher, local farmer and permaculture instructor, Michael Burns explained, “We are lucky to be in the middle of city full of innovative, progressive small business. For many classes we just walked a few blocks to learn from supportive business owners who shared with the students their ideas, including how they designed their enterprises to support ecological and social sustainability.”

The students visitsNewRoots included Home Green Home, Boxy Bikes, Bramble, The Meat Locker, BiciCocina, Alternatives Federal Credit Union and the new under-construction site the ReUse Center. Many of the visits were at Press Bay Alley, a new downtown retail plaza full of innovative start-up businesses.

Students also presented their ideas to local entrepreneurs. Notable were the three plans presented to financial advisors at Alternatives Federal credit Union: Antonio Triana’s cooperatively-owned, environmentally sound golf education center and driving range; Ella Bard’s heritage variety popcorn business; and Katrina Twardokus’ eco-friendly pet grooming service.

Students’ business plans also included a farm photography and promotion service, a low mein noodle food truck, a café featuring live birds, a plus-sized recycled fabric and dress shop, and an artisanal tapestry shop.

New Roots, located in downtown Ithaca, is a small public high school offering a tuition free, college prep program to students who live in school districts throughout our region. Now enrolling grades 9-12 for the 2015-2016 school year. Visit or call us at 607-882-9220 to learn more.


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