Sixteen-year-old College of Marin entrepreneur Amanda Gordon, who launched a successful jewelry business last year, has placed second in the 2016 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) competition.
Gordon, a Sir Francis Drake High School senior, traveled to Sacramento this past weekend to receive her award and a $1,500 prize at the 14th annual NACCE Innovate Now conference.
“Expect to see Amanda Gordon on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine in the next seven years,” says Nancy Willet, who is one of the COM business instructors working to expand entrepreneurship training both on and off the college campus. “Amanda is a millennial entrepreneur powerhouse with purpose and passion.”
Gordon was one of several high school students creating business plans, learning about corporate responsibility and participating in pitch contests in Willet’s entrepreneurship and business courses. She was able to flush out the details of her business concept for California Gem, which features custom-made jewelry created by Gordon from ethically sourced materials. Other student business plans included auto repair shops, smart phone apps, packaged wine experiences, and T-shirt companies.
“She was in with a bunch of adults and her pitch was one of the top pitches in the class,” says Willet, who nominated Gordon for the NACCE award.
This year, College of Marin is bringing an entrepreneurship class to Novato High School as part of a pilot project related to a statewide effort with the Doing What Matters Workforce and Economic Development bridge program to better match workforce skills with 21st century careers.
Entrepreneurship, the ability to think creatively and operate in a more independent “gig” economy, is a critical skill in today’s workforce, Willet says.
While in the class, Gordon researched her supply chain and discovered disturbing business practices—child and slave labor and human trafficking—at many companies that sell jewelry materials. Gordon decided to use materials only from companies with a record of ethical business practices. Future plans she is considering include the possibility of owning her own gold or mineral mines to ensure employees are treated well.
“We don’t see what’s happening, but there’s a lot of negative impact on human life,” Gordon says. “I knew that was something I really wanted to address.”
This year, she got a business license. In lieu of a final exam she revitalized the COM Business Club by staging a fundraising event to educate the campus about child laborers in Africa. She recruited classmates, sponsors and underwriters, engaged yoga instructors, designed T-shirts and orchestrated a half-day Yoga For Schools event that raised more than $1,000 for the cause.
“I can only do so much as one jewelry designer but I want to share these ideas with the world and help other people do the same,” she says. “The class helped me. It allowed me to make meaning with my jewelry-making.”
The award, she says, is a dream come true.
“I never thought I could I win something like this and having done so has helped me by reassuring that what I am doing and working towards is worth it,” Gordon says.
As Gordon finishes up her senior year at Sir Francis Drake High School, she also participates in cross country, track and field, sailing, and serves as president of the Partners at Lunch program for special education students. Outside of high school, she spends her time working at a local jewelry store, handling marketing for a local yoga studio, or creating custom-made jewelry for her company.
NACCE is a membership organization of more than 300 colleges that are focused on entrepreneurship. NACCE aims to empower the college to approach the business of leading a community college with an entrepreneurial mindset; and grow the role of the community college in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem.
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College of Marin is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 10 Commercial Blvd., Suite 204, Novato, CA 94949, (415) 506-0234, an institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Additional information about accreditation, including the filing of complaints against member institutions, can be found at: www.accjc.org
College of Marin is one of 113 public community colleges in California and approximately 13,000 credit, noncredit, and community education students enroll annually.