Oracle chairman and Santa Barbara resident Jeff Henley gave a motivational talk to teens at the start of a business leadership program sponsored by the Small Business Development Center.
Henley spoke at the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club Aug. 10 to about a dozen youth members and a handful of adults as SBDC consultant for the Los Angeles Regional Network Ray Bowman and director Becki Walker introduced the second annual Youth Business and Leadership Academy to the Lompoc children. Similar workshops have already been held in Ventura and Fillmore this year.
“What we teach them is what a small business is about and how that relates to any business,” Walker said.
The head of the software company spoke for just five minutes and made no mention of Oracle, instead introducing himself simply as “Jeff” and immediately describing the changing dynamic of the small business sector.
“It used to be that people who started their own businesses were in their thirties, forties and fifties,” he said. But recent surveys suggest that the 18-27 age group is exploding with entrepreneurs.
Henley says technology has played a significant role in this, and giving an example from one of his children.
“My 28-year-old son started his own Internet business selling bicycles,” he said, adding that he’s done “quite well” with his venture. “There are more young people in business than ever before.” He added that his philosophy is that starting the business is better for the entrepreneur if “you get the right skills and the right attitude.”
Because it was a program about business leadership though, Henley reminded the children in attendance that it takes a good leader to make anything work.
“A good leader can get the people to follow them,” he said. “I think you lead by setting a good example.” Henley’s examples included UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and President Obama, describing them as talented and charismatic. “There’s no one goal to becoming a great leader,” he said. “But at the heart is good work ethic and a passion for what you love.”
Henley’s company Oracle is in the middle of acquiring Santa Clara-based Sun Microsystems. The $7.4 billion deal was approved by Sun’s shareholders in July but hasn’t received regulatory approval from European and American governments. But those attending Monday’s session were inspired by Henley’s words instead of his company’s acquisitions.
“They were absolutely thrilled with him coming up and supporting them,” Walker said. “He’s a big supporter of the Boys and Girls Club, and his words really connected with the kids.” Henley is a member of the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Club of America. Walker said that the workshops held in the past have attracted around 20 teens.
“If we get eight or 10 kids who are really interested that’s a good group to work with,” she said. Walker was pleased with the way the Lompoc sessions worked out.
After students learn the basics of business on the first day, they’re brought back to establish their knowledge on how to create products and manage a company. The final day teaches them how to market their company and products using the most effective tools available, primarily the Internet as mentioned by Bowman and Henley on the first day.
“We know that the lowest cost of entry for a business is using a Web site, blog and Facebook,” Walker said. “With PayPal and other tools it allows someone to start a business quite inexpensively. For a lot of people and a lot of youth that’s the way to go.” She said the Internet is also effective for teens and young adults because it is the main destination to gather information for their age group. Walker said the marketing part of the workshop explains how to effectively determine the target audience for a product. Walker also said that she hopes to keep the workshops expanding into other parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, but that it’s contingent on her own funding and the health of other teen organizations.