Keri Pryor: Coaching Our Kids to Entrepreneurial Success
How to Encourage West Virginia’s Youth to Maintain an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Small business is a big deal in the United States, and in West Virginia. Nationally, small businesses make up 99.9% of all US businesses and 98.9% of all businesses in WV, according to the US Small Business Administration. There’s good news for minority-owned firms, too. Minority operated businesses in the US rose 38% between 2007 and 2016, with African-American owned business rising about 34% in that time frame. There’s still a lot of work to do to help grow those numbers, but these are encouraging statistics for not only small business owners in the state, but minority entrepreneurs. Increasing national statistics make it increasingly important for us as business owners to focus our attention to the youthful entrepreneurs in the state and help set them up for success.
Keri Pryor, coach and Black business owner spoke to us about challenges and opportunities facing West Virginia’s youth, the importance of strong role models, and ways we can ensure they succeed in the future.
Pryor founded and operates a non-profit girls basketball organization named The Lady TOGS (Team of Good Shooters). She started with 1 team that grew to 3, and in 2021 the organization is projected to have 5 teams as the organization grows. “The reason I do it is to be a voice and mentor to the kids and give back to my community,” explained Pryor. While playing basketball at Dusquesne University, she noticed a lack of female coaches along her journey. “I played basketball my entire life and never had a female coach until college. I’ve had several male coaches who were great mentors and positive role models, but I missed that female connection that helps young girls find themselves,” she said.
So she decided to become the mentor she lacked for the majority of her basketball career: “I wanted to be a resource and mentor to young girls who plan to play in college and professionally. It’s easier for them if they have someone in their corner who knows what it takes and is willing to help them get there every step of the way.
Pryor spoke to us about traveling with 50-60 girls across the country and the differences between athletic facilities and opportunities between WV and other states. And while the lack of resources and opportunities in WV is disheartening, it opens up a unique set of opportunities to the inhabitants of the state and those passionate about the athletic programs we can potentially offer our kids. Helping youthful entrepreneurs see the opportunity in the challenges they’re presented with is pivotal in creating a business mindset. Here are 3 more ways the adults can encourage West Virginia’s youth to maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.
Stress the Importance of Education
Many young people look to entrepreneurship due to a lack of job opportunity in their location or field, but not all of those young people are fit to be entrepreneurs. But with the right skills, tools, and education, more of them could be. It’s important we teach our kids the importance of learning, both inside of school and out.
Their English classes can help them better communicate and will come in handy with paperwork. Finance classes will prepare them for money management. History classes can help us ensure we don’t repeat past mistakes.
“It’s not just about basketball,” Pryor explains, “Every player has to maintain a GPA of 3.0.” “These girls not only work hard on the court but in the classroom as well, she boasts, “We have a cumulative team GPA of 3.8 which is fantastic!”
To ensure her girls get the most out of their classroom experiences, Pryor also offers tutoring services if its needed saying “I try to be as hands on as possible but always in need of further help from the community.”
Serve as Genuine Role Models
Kids and teens want someone to look up to, so it’s important to not simply be a role model but to be a productive, meaningful, and genuine example. This means we need to create a safe space for communication and mistakes, to encourage divergent thinking, and to cultivate relationships.
Starting a business is scary stuff, for anyone. But negativity and rejection are both learned responses, so it’s crucial we help our youth develop the skills that will help them face obstacles. “It took me several years to finally [start my business,] knowing it was going to be a lot of work and long hours,” Pryor describes, “If I had someone that was a business owner to take me under their wing, I’m sure I’d have done it sooner.”
And what about minority kids that rely on sports to further their education and future endeavours?
“There are so many unique opportunities for Blacks to do what I’m doing, to be a pivotal role model to their community,” she explains, “I wish more Black ex-athletes did more in our community. Because there are a lot of kids, black and white, that looked up to them at one time.”
Show Kids Entrepreneurs Come In All Shapes and Sizes (and Colors)
“There are several people who do what I do,” Pryor said about other non-profit organizations, “But they don’t look like me.” Kids tend to correlate entrepreneurship with something tangible. So it’s important to teach our kids about all kinds of different businesses and business models--from product based to physical services to motivation based and everything in between.
And in West Virginia, and other predominantly white areas, it’s important to teach kids within minority communities that entrepreneurs can look like them. “Being a Black woman, I was scared at first,” Pryor tells us about starting her organization, “Even when we play in rural areas, there are more mean coaching than women, and even less Black women. Division 1 basketball sees very few Black women serving as head coaches, and that has to change.” And she poses a good question about the sport: “A lot of Black women dominate college basketball courts, so why is head coaching still overwhelmingly white?”
Pryor’s organization motto is One Love, One Team: “I just want to be the voice and face to everyone, no matter what race you are. Once everyone has long, we become one team, and then family.” She continued, “As a young Black woman who wants to be the change, I just pray I touch several girls that would like to play or coach one day and [make them believe] it can be done.”
“I’ve been to several tournaments and get asked to grab the head coach, and I smile and say ‘You’re looking at her.”
Jacquelyn Brooks is a true crime junkie who daylights as a digital marketer and freelance content creator. She owns and operates The Lipstick Narratives, a beauty and lifestyle blog designed to help transition editorial living to everyday life. But all of that really just means “Girl trying her best.”