LONG-TERM IMPACT OF MINDING OUR BUSINESS ENTREPRENEURSHIP
PROGRAMS FOR LOW-INCOME MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
Sigfredo A. Hernandez
Associate Professor of Marketing
Cynthia M. Newman
Associate Professor of Marketing
Contact: Sigfredo A. Hernandez
Area: Educational Research
Disciplines: Entrepreneurship, Multidisciplinary, Management
Note: Research funded by a generous grant from the PSEG Foundation.
No scholarly research has been conducted on the long-term effects of entrepreneurship
programs on low-income middle school students. To begin to address this gap, the present
study evaluates the long-term impact of entrepreneurship focused service learning and summer
programs, Minding Our Business (MOB), on program alumni 7 to 15 years after completing
their entrepreneurship programs. The results of the 1997-2005 alumni survey indicate that
MOB has a positive impact on middle school students in terms of their academic, life, and work
skills. MOB seems to have a positive impact on academic and career planning as well. A large
number of alumni reported that they became more interested in going to college because of
MOB. Respondents also credit MOB programs with having a positive impact with their careers
and work lives. One-third of the group reported having started businesses and nearly one-half
reported planning to start one. Also, a majority of respondents reported feeling more confident
about their own capabilities and more hopeful about their futures.
Minding Our Business, Inc. is a non-profit organization, which, prior to its new 501 c 3
designation this year, had operated for more than sixteen years as a community outreach program
of Rider University’s College of Business Administration. The program was developed in
1997 out one of the author’s concern for low-income urban youth. The mission of Minding
Our Business is to advance the personal and vocational development of Trenton youth through
entrepreneurship education and mentoring. Since 1997 MOB has operated two programs, The
Service-Learning Program and the Summer Program, today with more than 2,500 Trenton low-
income student alumni. This study attempts to determine the long-term impact of both programs
on student outcomes.
The MOB Service-Learning Program
Students in this program participate in fourteen 90-minute training sessions from February to
May. Three college students mentor a group of seven to twelve middle school students in team
building, leadership, communication and entrepreneurship skills. Mentors guide student teams
through the process of starting and running a business.
The MOB Summer Program
The program provides Trenton students with the opportunity to run a business individually
during the summer months. Middle school students participate in 14 days of training in
entrepreneurship at Rider University. Students learn to run their businesses while improving
their math, reading, writing and presentations skills. The training is followed by an experiential
component where students participate in business coaching sessions, merchandise trips, and four
community market fairs at which they run their businesses.
Research conducted by Hernandez and Newman (2006, 2009) on student outcomes supports the
assertion that MOB is an excellent model for mentoring and entrepreneurship education of young
urban adolescents. Research indicates that students in MOB become more interested in going
to college and in starting their own businesses. Students participating in MOB observe positive
changes in self and improvement in important work/life skills: entrepreneurship, leadership,
communication, and team skills.
Research on academic records data indicates that MOB Service-Learning participation reduces
school absenteeism and tardiness (Hernandez and Newman, 2006). MOB programs also improve
self-esteem among participating students. (Hernandez and Newman, 2006 and 2009)
Program Objectives and Specific Outcomes
The study attempts to measure the impact of the MOB programs on its Trenton alumni. The
following are the long-term outcomes that will be used to evaluate program effectiveness.
1. Improved Academic Involvement. Students are more likely to stay in school and graduate
from high school.
2. Improved Academic Skills for Summer Program (reading and math). Students improve
their reading and math skills.
3. Improved Communication, Team, Leadership and Entrepreneurship Skills.
4. Improved Self-Efficacy-Self-Confidence.
5. Increased Interest in Going to College.
6. Became More Interested in Becoming an Entrepreneur.
Research on the long-term outcome effects of entrepreneurship education programs is lacking.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and Junior Achievement commissioned the
few existing alumni impact studies in this area. These are the two largest organizations in the
world providing entrepreneurship education to youth.
In 1998 a study conducted for NFTE tracked a random sample of 253 young adults ages 18-28
that had completed the NFTE New York City program as a junior or senior in high school, and
compared to a group of young adults who never participated in NFTE. Among the key study
findings include: (1) 83% of NFTE alumni want to start their own businesses compared to 57%
of the comparison group. (2) 36% of the alumni have started a business of their own versus 9%
of the comparison group. (3) 95% of the alumni indicated that NFTE improved their business
skills and knowledge (NFTE 1998).
A Brandeis University study conducted for NFTE in 1996 surveyed alumni, most who had
participated in their programs in the previous 4 to 16 months. Among the full sample of 430,
75% of the alumni indicated that their communication skills were better after NFTE and 25%
reported a great deal of program impact on school performance. Among the post-high-school-
aged alumni surveyed, 65% had ever run a business, 78% planned on running a business in the
future, and 70% were in post-secondary education (Hahn and Leavitt 1997).
Junior Achievement conducted a study of impact on various student outcomes for alumni after
completing middle school and/or high school programs two years previously. Their research
indicates that students participating during their middle school and high school years had a better
understanding of free enterprise, were more likely to be employed (while high school students)
and were more likely to indicate that they would enroll in postsecondary education than were
other same-age students (The Education Group 2004).
Both NFTE and Junior Achievement research cannot be considered long-term effect studies
since they surveyed alumni between 4 months and 2 years after students participated in their
programs. The NFTE impact studies are for the most part limited to alumni of high school
programs. In the Hahn and Leavitt (1997) study 71% of the full alumni sample were high school
students, 7% were high-school graduates, and only 9% were middle school students. The present
study extends the current research by studying long-term outcome effects on program alumni 7
to 15 years after completing their entrepreneurship program. In addition, MOB long-term effects
are examined for alumni who participated while they were middle school students.
The study by Newman and Hernandez (2011) evaluated the long-term impact of the MOB
Service-Learning program on the personal and vocational development of the Rider University
college student mentors participating in the program from 1997 to 2005. Their research
suggested that a high quality service-learning experience in entrepreneurship like MOB appeared
to have positive long-term effects on young adults’ attitudes, intentions and behaviors involving
their learning experience, career selection, career preparation, skill development, and community
service involvement. The present study complements the Newman and Hernandez (2011) study
by evaluating the impact of MOB programs on the 1997-2005 Trenton student participants who
are now alumni of the programs.
Focus Group Research
A focus group research session took place on September 15, 2011 and was facilitated by one
of the authors with vast experience with this research method. Eleven MOB program alumni
participated who had been student participants in the program between 1997 and 2005.
The focus group findings on program impact on alumni were very encouraging. Specifically,
the participants were asked about the impact of the program on the following areas: completing
high school and attending college; choosing a career; learning academic, life and work skills;
and developing a positive self-concept. The participants reported that the MOB programs (both
Summer and Service-Learning) positively impacted, either directly or indirectly, all of these
areas. In addition, the focus group session resulted in useful suggestions for the construction of
the survey questionnaire.
The MOB Alumni Cell Phone Survey
A cell phone survey was used to maximize access to our young respondents (ages 18-30) at their
convenience. The most challenging problem faced was the lack of accurate contact information
(i.e., current home addresses and phone numbers) for the Trenton students who participated
in MOB between 1997 and 2005. The considerable geographic mobility among low-income
families is well documented and accounts for the outdated alumni phone and address records
(Hahn and Leavitt 1997). The search feature of Facebook, the electronic White Pages, and a
people online search service were used to obtain more accurate contact information but with
little success. Also, four ads, asking for alumni to contact a number for the survey, were placed
during the summer of 2011 in a local newspaper. These methods yielded legitimate contacts
including contact with a program alumnus or a family member, resulting in 15% (16) of all
alumni cell phone surveys conducted.
The door-to-door contact method proved to be most effective in obtaining cell phone numbers
of past MOB program participants for the survey. Starting in the fall of 2012 the MOB Director
visited all 608 alumni family addresses in the program records. A total 149 addresses were
missing in the program records for 1995-2005 out of the population of 757 alumni. The hope
was to contact alumni and/or their relatives who still lived in the 1997-2005 addresses. Once
contacted, they were asked to provide the necessary cell phone information. A flyer was left
at the door when people were not at home asking for the alum to call the MOB Director and
provide a cell phone number for the survey. Thirty-nine percent of the homes visited were
vacant or represented addresses not belonging to alumni or their relatives; twenty-one percent
resulted in legitimate contacts; and, the status of 40% of the addresses could not be ascertained
since no response was received from the flyers that were left behind. The 108 interviews
conducted represent 14% of the total population of 1997-2005 alumni (N=757). The door-to-
door method yielded 85% or 92 of the 108 interviews conducted.
The questionnaire was designed in order to determine the program impact on alumni in the
following areas: (1) academic, life, and work skills; (2) self-confidence, self-efficacy and hope
as a student; (3) business ownership and plans to run businesses; (4) interest in and attendance
at college and plans for future study. A $25 incentive was given to each alumni respondent for
completing the phone interview.
One hundred and eight telephone interviews conducted were completed with individuals
who had participated in an MOB program as a Trenton middle school student and serve as
the basis of responses for this study. The interviewees ranged from 18 to 30 years of age.
Approximately 60% of the interviewees were female (59.3%, 64), a figure consistent with
the historic program participation rate by gender, and 89.8% (97) were black. In terms of the
highest level of education attained, more than one-quarter (26.9%, 29) of the interviewees
had earned an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree with another 22.% (24) reporting either being
currently enrolled in college or having completed some college. Forty-two percent (45) of
interviewees reported that a high school degree was their highest level of education attainment.
Only 2 respondents (1.9%) indicated not having yet completed high school. In terms of current
employment status, 52.8% (57) of interviewees reported being employed full-time, 27.8% (30)
reported being employed part-time and 8.3% (9) reported being unemployed and currently
The first section of the telephone survey verified interviewee participation in the MOB program
and asked for comment on the most memorable experience from program participation. Three-
fourths (82) of interviewees reported participating in the service learning, after school, program
while reported participation in the summer program was slightly less at 62% (67). Interviewees
participated in each of the programs, summer and service learning, an average of 2 years.
As was noted above, some of the key objectives of the MOB program are to positively
impact middle school students in terms of the development of their academic, life and work
skills. Using a four-point scale, interviewees evaluated the extent that MOB contributed to
skill development in each of these areas. As reported in Table 1 below, at least two-thirds
of respondents credit MOB with “a lot of impact” to their development of life and work
skills. While significantly fewer interviewees reported a similar level of contribution to their
academic skills of reading comprehension and math, the results do indicate contribution of the
MOB program to these academic skills at least at the “some” level or higher by 87% (94) of
interviewees for math skills and by 82% (89) of interviewees for reading comprehension skills.
Less than 8% (8) of interviewees reported no impact of the MOB program on their development
of these various skill areas.
Table 1: MOB Contribution to the Development of Academic, Life & Work Skills
Scale: A lot, Some, Very Little, Not at All
AREA/SKILL A LOT OF IMPACT SOME IMPACT
Communication 75% (81) 23.1% (25)
Team 73.1 % (79) 22.2% (24)
Entrepreneurship 75.9% (82) 19.4% (21)
Leadership 72.2% (78) 22.2% (24)
Reading comprehension 40.7% (44) 41.7% (45)
Math 50.9% (55) 36.1% (39)
The impact of the MOB programs on academic and career planning was evident in other
responses as well. Two-thirds of interviewees (66.7%, 72) reported that MOB had a strong
impact on their staying in school with another 22.2% (24) indicating at least some impact in this
area. Nearly all interviewees indicated that MOB helped them become better students (89.8%,
97) and approximately two-thirds (65.7%, 71) reported that MOB had “a lot” of impact on their
becoming more interested in college.
Besides having a favorable impact on academics, MOB programs also were reported by
respondents to have had a positive impact on their careers. Not only did MOB have a favorable
impact on the career plans of 70.4% (76) of interviewees, but it also was credited by 92.6% (100)
of respondents as helping “some” or “a lot” in their preparation for the world of work. 87%
(94) of interviewees affirmed that they have used something learned from MOB in their life
or work. As discussed above, the MOB program is committed to providing entrepreneurship
education. Nearly one-third (32.4%, 35) of the interviewees reported having started a business
since participating in the program and nearly one-half (47.2%, 51) of those who have not yet
started a business plan to do so in the future.
In addition to program objectives related to skill development, MOB also endeavors to positively
impact the lives of participants in terms of improving their self-esteem, self-confidence, self-
efficacy and level of hope. As indicated in Table 2, the MOB program has a strong impact on
these aspects of participants’ lives and attitudes.
Table 2: MOB Contribution to Self-Confidence and Hope
Scale: A lot, Some, Very Little, Not at All
Feelings About Self A LOT OF IMPACT SOME IMPACT
Felt better about self 67.6% (73) 22.2% (24)
Felt more confident 66.7 % (72) 22.2% (24)
Felt more capable 60.2% (65) 29.6% (32)
Felt more hopeful about one’s future 64.8% (70) 21.3% (23)
Finally, interviewees were asked to comment on their current interest in the MOB program as
alumni. Nearly all of the interviewees (95.4%, 103) reported that they would be interested in
staying in touch with the MOB program. Interest in specific means of staying in contact with
the program is detailed in Table 3. The most popular ways of staying connected were: receiving
current information about the program, attending an alumni reunion, serving as a judge at the
business plan presentations and becoming a mentor.
Table 3: Interest in Various Means of Staying in Touch with the MOB Program
Activity % (n) Expressing Interest
Receive information about the program 86.1% (93)
Attend an alumni reunion 85.2% (92)
Serve as a judge for the business plan presentations 76.9% (83)
Become a mentor 73.1% (79)
Provide financial support 56.5% (61)
Be a guest speaker 47.2% (51)
Become a tutor 42.6% (46)
Limitations & Future Research
One of the limitations of this study was the difficulty in obtaining accurate contact information
for the alumni of the MOB program, which could lead to sampling bias. Specifically, it is much
less likely that alumni who moved away from the greater Trenton area were included. Another
limitation is the potential for nonresponse error given the use of telephone number screening
devices and an increased skepticism of calls from unfamiliar numbers, both of which can lead to
individuals not answering calls and, thereby, not participating in telephone surveys. (Tourangeau
2004, Tuckel and O’Neill 2002) Efforts were made to minimize nonresponse bias by leaving
voice mail messages that provided students with both an email address and phone number of the
Program Director who is quite familiar to all alumni for the purpose of verifying the validity of
the survey. Finally, there is the potential for coverage error arising from alumni who do not own
a cell phone.
An important research design limitation of this study is that it only covers program effects on
1997-2005 alumni. In 2007 research on best practices for summer learning was incorporated
in the Summer Program design. The program was transformed into a more academically
intensive one. Using the entrepreneurship theme, reading and math were effectively integrated
into the student learning. As a result of this transformation, the National Summer Learning
Association recognized MOB in 2008 and in 2009 as a program finalist in the Excellence in
Summer Learning Award competition. In 2009 the program was the National Winner of the Best
of Best Practices Award in Entrepreneurship Education at the Small Business Institute National
Conference in Florida. It is likely that the level of impact on academic skills, math and reading
comprehension, would be higher for Summer Program alumni after 2007 as compared to the
1997-2005 period. Future research on MOB alumni will address this hypothesis.
Overall, the results of the 1997-2005 alumni survey indicate that MOB has a positive impact on
middle school students in terms of their academic, life, and work skills. MOB seems to have a
positive impact on academic and career planning as well. A large number of students reported
that they have become more interested in going to college because of MOB. Almost half of all
alumni (49%) report that they are enrolled in college or completed some college. The reported
high school drop-out rate of this group is only 2% comparing very favorably with the 2011 drop-
out rate for Trenton’s public high schools of 52.3% (NJ.com 2012). Furthermore, respondents
also credit MOB programs with having a positive impact with their careers and work lives.
One-third of the group reported having started businesses and nearly one-half reported planning
to start one. Finally, a majority of respondents reported psychological benefits of program
participation. Feeling more confident about their own capabilities and more hopeful about their
futures is typical of this group.
This research is the first in the area of entrepreneurship education for youth studying the long-
term program effects on alumni outcomes. Past research in the area of program impact on
alumni has been limited to short-term or medium-term effects (up to two years after program
participation). Many more factors can affect personal development of a young person in a 7-
15 year span than in a 4-24 month period. Saying that a program had “a lot of impact” on the
personal development of program alumni is much more meaningful in the longer term than a
few months after completing a program. It is fairly impressive to think that a relative short
intervention like MOB in middle school student lives, 7 to 15 years ago, has such positive
personal and vocational impacts on alumni.
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