Ann Arbor’s Running Start aims to equip teenagers with entrepreneurship skills


What was Mark Zuckerberg up to as a child?

Was he glued to SpongeBob SquarePants on TV? Did he spend his free time playing Grand Theft Auto?

Not sure. However it came about, the (now) 33-year-old computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur, who founded Facebook from his Harvard dorm room, is worth $72.5 billion – and Debra Power may be mentoring the next mogul, right here in Ann Arbor, with new her new venture, Running Start.

“I love entrepreneurship,” says Power. “Most people go to school and then go to college and then go to work for someone else. I want to help give kids the the skills to be able to work for themselves.”

Debra Power

Power, who is also the president and founder of Power Marketing Research in Ann Arbor, aims to empower young people to become their own bosses through Running Start, a new, four-course program tailored for middle and high schoolers. It’s a mentorship with a workshop-based approach that she created to engage them and teach them about business development and is led by a team of more than 30 mentor instructors – two of them are 14-year-olds who already operate their own businesses.

“Naja Prince has a dog biscuit baking company and Abi Middaugh is a professional organizer,” Power said. “They’ll be presenting to their peers.”

According to a recent study, 43 percent of students in grades 5-12 have plans to start a company of their own and through Running Start, Power hopes to equip them with the entrepreneurial skills they’ll need to launch their enterprises.

“They are the ones who are going to solve problems in the near future,” Power says. “If we don’t give them the tools they need to solve those problems, shame on us.”

The first set of Running Start seminars begin on Saturday, April 21, consisting of four weekly courses developed to instill the fundamentals of entrepreneurship to kids. The courses are focused on entrepreneurial skills that include business planning, business pitches, market research, branding, budgeting and more. The Running Start mentors are area experts who want to foster youth, instill their entrepreneurial spirit and encourage them to take their own business ideas and, as the name suggests, run with them.

Naja Prince, 14, started her own dog biscuit-baking company. She will be among 30 mentors presenting at Running Start.
Abi Middaugh, 14, is a professional organizer who will be among 30 mentors presenting at Running Start.

The idea came to Power while she was volunteering to help Girl Scouts earn merit badges.

“I was teaching third graders how to start a business. I was astonished to see that these third-grade girls were coming up with ideas for viable company concepts,” she says. “I thought that if they could do this well, what could we do with kids in middle school and high school?”

And so, she set out to find the answer.

“One set of classes is for high-schoolers and one is for middle-schoolers,” Power says, of the sessions. “I’m hoping to have 20 students for each set.”

In addition to standard registration, there are several scholarship opportunities available for youth who are interested in attending. “These are free, income-based scholarships. Parents just need to reach out to me for more information,” Power says.

The classes are open to all high-school and middle school students.

“This community is a hub for creativity,” Power says, of the Southeast Michigan, including the Washtenaw area. “I hope to be able to expand and set up workshops in other areas, like Grand Rapids, Detroit and Flint.”

Power is a longtime area business woman with firm grasp on exactly what businesses need to succeed. Her background is in economic development, and her 17-year-old company, Power Marketing Research, provides marketing research services, including customer discovery, focus groups, surveys and usability testing, to clients in the business, education, nonprofit, healthcare and government sectors.

Running Start presenters include experts from Ann Arbor SPARK, NEW, Neutral Zone, NewFoundry, Inovo, Plante Moran, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, Bidlack Creative Group, Continuum Design + Web, Hylant, Bodman, Varnum Law, Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats, Zingerman’s and Fancy Free Organizing.

Running Start workshops will be held at GO Where Meetings Matter, 4735 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108

For more details on Running Start, contact its Founder & President, Debra Power at

804 Phoenix Drive

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Phone: (734) 741-1134


VIsit Running Start on the web at:


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