There's no doubt Serial Entrepreneur and CEO of Tasty Catering, Tom Walter, is a busy man. Beyond managing his company, he makes time to travel nationwide to participate in business entrepreneurship presentations and deliver leadership speeches. But there's one other place he's spending a good amount of time at — Elk Grove High School (EGHS). Among others, Walter is an active participant and mentor of EGHS's Business Incubator program taught by Chad Froeschle.
The Business Incubator program is not your typical high school course. Students have the opportunity to develop business plans step-by-step and subsequently sit face-to-face with local business owners to receive critical feedback and advice.
Tom Walter has been involved since the beginning of the program. One of Elk Grove High School's graduates and an employee of Tasty Catering, Jamie Pritscher, who just so happens to be an entrepreneur herself, encouraged him to be a mentor for the program.
The man of the hour, Tom Walter, sat down with us to share insight into why he chooses to spend his free time mentoring high school students.
Explain your current role in the program.
I explain real life issues with students. Young entrepreneurs seem to focus on a product side without understanding the business side. So on the first day, I go over the basics. I share my point of view as an investor by communicating what I look for in a business plan.
By the second session, the students discuss their business plans. By the third session, we go over business compliancy requirements, as well as how to receive a PIN number and a qualified sales tax number. My wife, who has a master's degree in finance, is also involved and shares her expertise in registering businesses with the state and federal government. My last session with the students will be a discussion on HR processes.
Has a particular student really caught your attention?
One of the senior students is already an entrepreneur. He's built a business, and even has some of his peers working for him. He's a very wise young man — he can overcome hard problems. He's dealt with a few regulation issues, but he's learning. And his peers have the opportunity to learn from his experiences.
Explain the importance of mentorship.
It's hard for business owners to get involved in mentoring because they're usually strapped to their business and therefore lack time. But the growth of the US is dependent on young entrepreneurs. If we can invest in young entrepreneurs, we can explain how they too can build a business. It's important for older entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and wisdom. Why should entrepreneurs take a divergent road never traveled when they can take a road that's already defined? The goal is to repeat the common road towards entrepreneurship, so the young entrepreneur will soon believe it and trust it.
Another thing I'd like to add, I am beyond impressed by how engaged Chad Froeschle is with the entire program. From my experience being involved, I've learned that these students are hungry for this type of life. I can see it in their eyes that they are interested in the entrepreneurial approach to living — risk and long hours, but reward and happiness.