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Sep 19, 2019

Imagine if young people in low-income communities were taught about money and small business?

Today’s guest has done exactly that. Steve Mariotti is a prominent advocate for entrepreneurship education worldwide. He currently serves as Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship at Rising Tide Capital in Jersey City. He is the founder and former president of the global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and the author of 44 books, textbooks, and articles exploring the transformative power of entrepreneurship for low-income communities.

In his riveting personal memoir of his early career as a New York City public high school teacher, Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy and Inspired a Movement, Steve Mariotti shares the touching story of how he discovered that teaching even the most disenfranchised and disillusioned children about small business lights a fire for learning in them and transforms their futures. This experience inspired him to found NFTE to empower at-risk youth to create pathways out of poverty.  

Steve founded NFTE on his public high school teacher's salary in 1987. He led teams that raised more than $150 million for NFTE's mission over 26 years, building NFTE into the leading global provider of entrepreneurship education for low-income youth from Chicago to China. Today, NFTE operates in 23 locations in 10 countries and has served nearly one million young people. 

Steve soon discovered there were no textbooks available for teaching entrepreneurship to young people, so he wrote groundbreaking textbooks, including the Golden Lamp Award-winning high-school textbook Entrepreneurship: Starting and Operating a Small Business, and the junior college textbook Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. Steve is also the author of the popular Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business.  Approximately 1.2 million copies of Steve's books, textbooks and workbooks have been sold or donated worldwide, including to prison educational programs like ITEM (Inmates Teaching Entrepreneurship and Mentoring), which Steve co-founded with Joe Robinson in 2004. 

In 2012, Steve was inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. His multiple awards include: Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Bernard A. Goldhirsh Social Entrepreneur of the Year; New York Enterprise Report 2012 Founders Award for Social Entrepreneurship; National Director’s Entrepreneurship Award from U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency; Association of Education Publishers Golden Lamp Award for best curriculum (2002) and best math curriculum (2010); ACE/Currie Foundation Humanitarian Venture Award; USASBE Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year; CEO Club Social Entrepreneur of the Year; America’s Top High School Business Teacher.

Steve has been profiled on national media, including ABC Evening News and 20/20. A Council on Foreign Relations member, he has lectured at The World Economic Forum, Davos and other forums and universities.

Raised in Flint, Michigan, Steve received his B.B.A. in business economics and his M.B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Mr. Mariotti has also studied at Harvard University, Stanford University, Brooklyn College and Babson College. He enjoys attending lectures on physics at the Institute for Advanced Studies in his current hometown, Princeton NJ. 

In today’s conversation, Steve shares his story, how he overcame his personal learning disabilities and PTSD and used that experience to launch his teaching career, which ultimately led him to found NFTE and empower over a million young people to date.


Key Takeaways 

  1. Approximately 900,000 students drop out of school in the US, and they come from about 600 schools – called dropout factories.
  2. If we mess up the education of a young person, it doesn’t really matter what else we do afterwards.
  3. Many kids who grow up in poverty are unaware of the different prices for an item or production structure behind it; they only know the retail price.
  4. If we can eliminate poverty we can eliminate a lot of the problems we have, and then we can deal with other higher order problems.
  5. Those of us in the US need to look at countries like Finland with nearly a 100% literacy rate and Singapore who is so far ahead academically, and ask how ourselves we can get better.
  6. Every child should learn about small business.


Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy and Inspired a Movement

Connect With Steve Mariotti and NFTE


Steve Mariotti