Be an Entrepreneur!

Be an Entrepreneur!
Pat Nixon: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Four to five class periods


During the presidency of Richard Nixon, a new way of delivering mail was invented by a young entrepreneur named Frederick W. Smith.  His company, which he named Federal Express, grew to be a major competitor with the U.S. Post Office, and spawned several other delivery companies.  In the ensuing years, a number of young entrepreneurs have started hugely successful companies, often based on new ideas of how to manage a company.  Let's look at some of them.


Students who participate in this activity will learn about highly successful start-up companies that prospered beyond anyone's wildest dreams, as well as gain experience in synthesizing information looking for common themes or principles.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print materials on entrepreneurship.


1.  Begin the class by defining "entrepreneur"--have students take a crack at defining it, and then refine the definition for them.  Explain that this is a lesson in which six entrepreneurs are to be studied, looking for common themes in the histories of their success.

2.  Divide the class into six groups; using the websites listed below, each group will be responsible for researching one of the following:

  • Dell Computers: Michael Dell
  • Microsoft: Bill Gates
  • Federal Express: Frederick W. Smith
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Apple Computers: Steve Jobs
  • Starbucks Coffee: Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, Gordon Bowker

3.  When the research is complete, have students discuss their findings, concluding with several common themes in the lives of these men that have made their entrepreneurship so successful.

4.  Using these themes, have students (singly or in groups) develop a "start-up" of their own, and write a business plan for the new company.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by encouraging students to actually begin a business, or to extend their research into other successful entrepreneurship activities.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.