Dr. Marlene Jackson is interviewed by J’Pia Brickhouse Isbell, one of Biz Kidz Academy's first scholarship winners. Photo credit: Amir Isbell
Dr. Marlene Jackson, co-founder/CEO, Biz Kidz Academy
Photo credit: Dr. Marlene Jackson

American Business Women’s Day is recognized on September 22. Dr. Marlene Jackson founded Biz Kidz Academy along with her daughter, Ashley Cole, in 2016. The dedicated pair opens doors to support business interest in young entrepreneurs.

“Biz Kidz Academy is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization developed to inspire kids and teens [ages 8-18] to become successful young entrepreneurs. Our goal is to motivate kids to creatively embrace their enterprising spirit, lead confidently, think critically and be financially responsible,” Jackson said.

Born the youngest of seven in Chicago, Illinois, Jackson was inspired by Frances Barber. Her dedicated mother established a mission to make a difference in the lives of her children. Jackson continues a legacy of building up youth who find their way to the doors of Biz Kidz Academy.

“With the encouragement and motivation from family, I began encouraging kids and teens when I produced my first Chicago-based fashion show featuring children in back-to-school designs,” Jackson said, while explaining the development of her ideas.

Barber’s spirit touches Jackson and Cole’s mentees through The Frances Barber Scholarship that is awarded in the loving memory of Barber.

Additionally, some of Maryland’s younger entrepreneurs benefit from various workshop series, conferences, initiatives, programs and a competition through Biz Kidz Academy.

Jackson’s efforts to spread messages about entrepreneurship led her to pen a forthcoming book, “Biz Kidz Academy… Activity Book for Young Entrepreneurs.” It will be available to teachers, librarians, schools and other educational institutions throughout Maryland in the fall of 2023.

In the interim, Biz Kidz Academy connects youth to community leaders, organizations, group representatives and other enthusiastic business- minded young peers. Professionals from business fields provide mentoring, one-on-one guidance and resources to participants who find their way to Jackson and Cole’s Howard County, Maryland-based nonprofit.

“Initiated as Le’ Chic Academy LLC, a girl mentoring program, Biz Kidz Academy evolved when it became evident that local girls and boys need a program that offers a creative entrepreneurial outlet that encourages their self-confidence and self-expression,” Jackson said.

Biz Kidz participants also receive real-world business experience.

Jackson added, “Biz Kidz Academy is sponsoring its next annual young entrepreneur’s shark tank competition, vendor exhibits, fashion show and award ceremony on Saturday, October 21, 2023, at the Holiday Inn, located at 7900 Washington Boulevard in Jessup, Maryland. The special event will be held from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.”

Additionally, young competitors will display their creative entries and sell their business products at a vendor table. Young designers display their fashions during the event’s fashion show.

Youth and teens ages 8-18 are invited to compete in the 2023 competition and fashion show. Prizes, award presentations, fashions, refreshments, live music, guest speakers, entertainment and vendors will be a part of the comprehensive offerings. Participants may qualify to win a $500 scholarship, laptop, trophy, school and art supplies, business startup money, gift cards, award certificates and more perks.

Jackson explained that expenses are covered by a grant awarded by Youth Engagement Programming Grants (YEP) through the office of Howard County Government. This year, youth and teens must reside in Howard County, Maryland.

J’Pia Brickhouse Isbell, 21, one of Biz Kidz Academy’s first scholarship winners, runs her business called Pi’s Palace. The Ellicott City resident began participating in the Biz Kidz competitions and activities at the age of 14. Isbell attends the University of Maryland Global Campus. The entrepreneur will be participating in this year’s event as Jackson’s helper, since she is over 18 years old.

“I am preparing the dresses for the fashion show in addition to making a few new paintings available to sell,” Isbell said.

She remarked that Biz Kidz Academy’s competition taught her about topics such as managing a budget, and profit. Isbell also had a chance to utilize speaking skills. Developing her business takes work, dedication, research and most importantly discipline.

The young businesswoman continued to press forward despite experiencing times when she felt like giving up.

“What I like about entrepreneurship is that I did not have to handle it by myself. There were classes both online and through Biz Kidz Academy to help me learn and grow, including people my age, younger, and older to help each other when we hit rough spots,” Isbell said.

Registration is now open at https://bizkidz.co. Submissions for the competition and event are due by September 30, 2023. There is no cost for qualified youth to participate. Future competitions will be open to students throughout Maryland.

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