YesCarolina a movement of entrepreneurship in area schools

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The South Carolina Department of Education reports only 67 percent of the high school graduating class of 2012 enrolled in higher education.

State officials say the remaining 33 percent learned a trade, entered the military or joined the workforce.

Jimmy Bailey says there is one missing link: entrepreneurship.

"I believe that through life relevant education, teaching financial literacy, teaching a young person at an early age how to start a business, all feeds into what we need to do as communities for the economy," said Bailey, a former state representative for District 110.

Ten years ago, Bailey started YesCarolina, a nonprofit that teaches educators the strategy of entrepreneurship.

"We teach teachers how to teach a very specific and internationally acclaimed curriculum as early as sixth{}grade," Bailey said. "Everything is experiential education, hands on activities. From supply and demand to the economics of the unit."

Bailey's motivation for YesCarolina stemmed from his own life experience.

"The best job my mother ever had was a clerk in a grocery store. The best job my father ever had was a long distance truck driver," said Bailey. "So it didn't leave a lot available discretionary income to do a lot of things, including food, including clothing."

Thankfully, Bailey met a guy who changed the trajectory of his life.

"This fellow named Allen Legare was the state senator at the time," said Bailey. "Took an interest in me, (he) had no reason to. He started talking to me about going to college and getting an education regardless of how difficult it would be. I had to work a year after high school to save money to go to college."

Bailey went on to the University of South Carolina and entered the world of real estate before he followed in his mentor's footsteps and got into politics.

While serving downtown Charleston, Bailey read a speech titled "Solving the Problem of Poverty" by Steve Mariotti, president and founder of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

"He recognized that low income kids were born with special talents. They were skeptical of hierarchies, accustomed to stress, not afraid of failure, creative," said Bailey.

In the last decade, YesCarolina has trained 600 South Carolina teachers. Eva Rutiri at West Ashley High School is one of them.

"Prior to my YesCarolina, I had a book and that was it," said Rutiri, a former entrepreneur herself. "We learned how to do a cost of good sales and to do the economics of one unit which was absolutely brand new to me. We got materials and posters for our classrooms. So, we got a lot of extra things that we wouldn't normally get to actually be able to teach entrepreneurship."

The students get a chance to formulate a business concept along with marketing strategies.

Thursday, YesCarolina held an in-class competition for Mrs. Rutiri's students. Nine students presented their ideas to three YesCarolina judges.

"I'm certainly not throwing the softball questions at them like I did last year," said Sam Whetsel, judge and owner of MyPhoneMD on King Street. "A really important one for me is good eye contact, good visualization, comfortable on your feet and comfortable in front of a group of people."

Of the nine, five were selected to present at the College of Charleston for a regional competition.

"Most people don't even think about starting those businesses until they are out of school," said Whetsel. "So, being in high school classrooms, talking about an applicable business that's interesting in their life, it definitely helps them develop."

When asked how it feels to see students master the concept of entrepreneurship, tears filled Bailey's eyes as he responded. "Very gratifying," he said.

"When we started, our goal was if we could touch one child, it'd be worth it. Well, we know there has been thousands touched by providing them with a life relevant piece of education," said Bailey.

For more information on YesCarolina, call 843-556-1909. To donate to the organization go to