Entrepreneurship


Aspen Youth Leadership Institute (AYLI)


In alignment with our purpose of developing extraordinary leaders, our focus on leadership development, character education and service learning are integral parts of life at Aspen Academy. Our students learn that at the very least, they are accountable for leading themselves.

The curriculum of the Aspen Youth Leadership Institute emphasizes integrated curricular and experiential learning opportunities. The leadership opportunities are embedded into regular and thoughtful instruction that first focuses on self and branches out to increased levels of depth leading others. The mission of the Aspen Youth Leadership Institute is to help America’s youth re-establish a culture of self-sufficiency, accountability and leadership through the development of the following four strands of instruction:

1. Emotional Intelligence

2. Social Intelligence

3. Community Leadership

4. Civic Leadership


Our students begin each day with a 30-minute leadership class filled with lessons and experiences that seek to:

  1. Provide students the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of self, uncovering their own personal worth, limitless potential and clarity of belonging.
  2. Instill a mindset of continual growth within our students, recognizing that risk-taking is a critical element of success, and mistakes/failures are opportunities for learning.
  3. Give students the skills and tools to manage and recognize emotions and to increase their overall emotional intelligence.
  4. Equip youth with the practices of healthy social behavior to effectively maintain deep connective relationships.
  5. Practice communication, collaboration and compassion when relating to and working with others.
  6. Demonstrate social relationships that are culturally inclusive, recognizing and celebrating the differences in others.
  7. Inspire students to become integral in their communities, positively and productively influencing others.
  8. Teach an understanding and a mindset of service to others.
  9. Promote civic engagement among students through the identification of issues of concern and the awareness of how to create change.
  10. Create extraordinary leaders.


Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute (AEI)

AEI is creating a ground shift in education. Instead of focusing on “content” it focuses on “creation.” Aspen Academy creates innovators, thinkers, doers and economy expanders.

Each lesson, simulation, project and moment of time spent in AEI is relevant to the real world. The curriculum is the first of its kind in the nation for kindergarten through eighth grade that focuses on personal financial literacy, economics, project and organizational leadership, and management and innovation while cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset.

All students in kindergarten through eighth grade spend the year creating a classroom economy, which leads to creating a classroom business. Students launch into real-world economic decision-making through teacher-directed lessons. A deep dive into personal money management rounds out the year.

The entrepreneurial mindset is embedded into regular and thoughtful instruction in order to create a positive and permanent effect on the nation.

The mission of AEI is to create a ground shift that will establish a nation of financially self-sustaining individuals and economy expanders developed through habits and practices.

  • AEI consists of two twenty-five minute sessions, Money Monday and Finance Friday, that are embedded into the school day each week.
  • All students who graduate from Aspen Academy learn to create something from nothing.
  • The AEI curriculum develops habits and practices necessary for young people to suceed.
  • AEI was created by Aspen Academy teachers, for teachers.
  • By the time students graduate from Aspen Academy, they have written a business plan, started a business, pitched a business idea and managed their own start-up.


AEI Curriculum At-A-Glance:

  • Wants and Needs
  • Instant vs. delayed gratification
  • How to balance a budget
  • How to budget
  • Rights vs. privileges
  • Variety of Financial Institutions
  • How to start and run a business
  • Forms of money
  • Manage a mini economy
  • Investing
  • Writing a Business Plan
  • Market a product
  • Pitch an idea
  • Interdependence
  • Skills and Jobs
  • Human Capital
  • Opportunity Cost
  • Money Management
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Charitable Giving
  • Cost of Living
  • Taxes
  • Types of Insurance
  • The Cost of Loans
  • E-commerce safety
  • Economic Systems
  • Interest payments


"As a third grade teacher, the Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute curriculum has reminded me that, along with character and leadership, managing your own personal finances is a lifelong habit. As with any other lifelong habit, this must be practiced regularly, starting at a young age. Those students who possess responsible financial habits are allowing their entrepreneurial abilities to thrive.

Students' learning in AEI is driven by what excites them. The other day, for example, we had our first marketplace, in which students wrote checks to purchase an item of their choice using money they had earned doing a classroom job. When half the class purchased hot chocolate, it opened up an opportunity the following week to discuss supply and demand. Students were able to understand how real-life markets work, and saw that producers increase the price of a good or service when demand is high and supply is low. As our classroom market changes, students will understand why the price of hot chocolate has increased. AEI is providing authentic, engaging financial learning experiences that students will carry with them throughout their lives."

-Rob Cooper, 3rd grade teacher


Shark Tank


Every student at Aspen Academy graduates knowing how to create a business plan, create a business and pitch his/her idea.

Shark Tank is the culminating piece of the Capstone project that eigth graders experience at Aspen Academy. At this point in the year, all of the students know how to operate a business, so the final stage we take them through is creating their own business. Over the course of five months, all of our 8th graders generate a business idea, write a business plan, create a business and pitch their idea to a panel of judges.

There are three rounds of Shark Tank pitches:

Round 1: A 90-second video submission about their company. All videos are judged using an objective rubric, and the group moving on to Round 2 is narrowed down to 15 students.

Round 2: A panel of expert judges will judge both the video as well as an in-person pitch from each of the 15 semi-finalists. By the end of judging, the competition will be narrowed down to the top five finalists.

Round 3: An in-person pitch competition takes place in front of the Aspen community where a new group of expert judges will collectively determine the winner of the competition. Cash prizes are awarded so students can continue funding their businesses.


Past Shark Tank Winners:

  • 2018: Nolan Cooper: Prom-Posals
  • 2017: Emily Rudnick: Rudspice
  • 2016: Aaron Sonin: Drive Happy
  • 2015: Josh Hascall: Free Range Enterprises
  • 2014: Izzy Branscomb: The Daily Izzy


Fish Tank

The purpose of Fish Tank is to establish a club that mimics the 8th Grade Shark Tank Business Plan Competition. By utilizing skills that are learned during the Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute lessons, students in grades K-7 will have the ability to create and manage their own businesses. Not only will this benefit them by allowing them to gain hardcore experience in creating and running a business, the “fish tank competition” component of the club will prepare them for when they are presenting in front of judges as 8th graders. Apart from establishing practical business knowledge, business plan preparation requires keen presentation skills that will distinguish anyone who participates in this program.