Teens get hands-on business experience at Youth Express in St. Paul


“I don’t think school prepares young people for work — work prepares people for work.” said Randy Treichel, enterprise director for Youth Express.  “Even if they do not go on to run a business, they have a basic understanding of how a business is run and become empowered employees.  Eighty-seven percent of our participants graduate from high school. Seventy to seventy-five percent enter post secondary education.”

Youth Express runs two business ventures in St. Paul, youth-directed programs known as Express Yourself Clothing and Bike Express. The program’s Urban Apprenticeship provides students with a six-month long training in business concepts: how to run your business, accounting, sales, negotiation, advertising, and business administration.

“What I like is that it is run by youth,” said Yenesia Hill, the associate at Express Yourself Clothing Store at 1154 Selby Ave.  “It is small [only six to seven students at a time go through the training], real hands on and the co-founder takes the time on how it works here.”  At 20, Hill is the oldest participant in the urban business program.  She is a sophomore at Century College studying to be a juvenile probation officer. 

Piroum Yann, age 17, a student from Central High School has been in the Urban Apprenticeship Program for two months. He gets school credit for participating.  “What I like about Bike Express is learning about bikes: the right tools, the parts of the bike, how to fix them and how they work,” said Yann.  “The challenge for me is replacing the cables and asking many questions.”

Bike Express at 1158 Selby Ave refurbished bicycles, provides repair services, and offers a selection of cycling accessories.  All the profits go to support the business internship programs for the urban youth. 

“We have 1200 to 1300 bikes that come through our store in a year,” said Treichel.  The public can donate their bikes to the program.

Youth Express started in the Midway area in 1990 as young people gathered together to solve problems in their neighborhoods, and evolved to what is today, youth leaders and entrepreneurs working in real world businesses.

“Come buy your bike with us or get your bike fixed,” said Yann. Next apprenticeship training starts in July, and is open to participants who are at least 14 years old. To learn more, contact Youth Express at info@youthexpress.net.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.