Dan Jackson is a business educator at Apex Friendship High School in Apex, NC, where started a unique program known as Applied Synergies Partnership (ASaP) as part of a business curriculum for the school. The ASaP program is implemented along with faculty at Poole College of Management at N.C. State University.

Q: Tell us about the Applied Synergies Partnership – how did it begin and what is its goal?

A: ASaP is an attempting to create synergies across high school education, university education and the RTP entrepreneurial environment. ASaP is the effort of these different entities to instill in these young people skills that they are going to be required to demonstrate in order to achieve success in higher learning and in their careers. …Let’s get these skills developed as soon as possible in these young people. The group’s acronym, ASaP, is meant to be a double entendre.

The catalyst for this approach was the question, “How do we synergize the positive influences of high quality career and technical education, institutions of higher learning and the vibrant start-up community in the greater Raleigh-Durham area to benefit all stakeholders.”

The goal [of ASaP] is the idea of bringing all these folks together and having them work together and learn from one another….It’s a partnership with higher learning – in this case, N.C. State.

The second element of it is to engage with the community and ask for mentors to come in and work with high school student teams on the development of business plans.

The third element is internal, healthy competition — these teams end up participating in competitions with their written business plans. 

This is a unique approach to delivering entrepreneurial education in the state of North Carolina, as far as I know. …If there are other programs like it, I’d love to find them and work with the instructors so we can all learn.

Q: Why is it important to give young people an entrepreneurial mindset early on in life?

The need for the development of survival skills at an early age was made clear by research such as a Gallup study in 2014 of over 100 universities where they asked the question, ‘How well are you preparing young people for their careers?’ Ninety-six percent of these universities said ‘average or above average.’ They then asked the same question of employers – I think it was over 200 employers were asked, and these were managers – the question was, ‘How well prepared are your incoming, recent college graduates to excel in their careers?’ Only 11 percent of those employers said ‘average or above average.’ 

We have a gap. We have a producer of employees – universities and high schools for that matter – thinking they’re doing a good job of preparing their product for the corporate environment, and yet we have the corporate people saying, ‘Actually you’re doing a pretty crummy job.’


Q: What can schools do differently to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students?

A: I want kids to look forward to going to school. School should be fun but a lot of the fun is schooled out of students. They get past 4th or 5th grade and they head to middle school and they begin to get pushed through the mill. …They are no longer encouraged to be curious, to ask ‘What if?’ or ‘Why not?’ or ‘Let’s go take a look.’ Instead it’s ‘That’s not in the curriculum,’ ‘That’s not in the textbook.’ You begin to school out of them imagination, creativity, divergent thinking and you begin to mill cogs that are meant to fit into the system. Students deserve more than that.

Q: What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?

A: [Mr. Jackson suggests the best advice would be to take comments from students who have gone through ASaP, and referred the questioner to a page on his website with such comments. Below is a sampling]

  • Don’t waste your potential on procrastination
  • The worst they can say is no.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but you have to make the ask.
  • Don’t be afraid, what’s the worst thing that could go wrong?  Great things are not achieved without risk
  • Don’t be afraid to go outside the box; take the unconventional route.
  • I am capable of far more than I originally thought; when I put forth maximum effort, nothing is out of reach.  It’s all about ME!
  • Surround yourself with exceptional people early in the game and then trust those around you.

Q: What are the hot areas for entrepreneurship these days?

  1. Find your passion. Don’t pursue a business for the purpose of gaining money — pursue the passion not the profit. Your life will be more fulfilling if you do that
  2. Find a really crying need that the world has then try to find the people who can help you solve it.

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