Guiding young people through the ins and outs of entrepreneurship is a family affair for Tovah Tanner, a metro woman on a mission to create a Kansas City that thinks critically, holds values, and possesses life skills that build lasting wealth.
“My son, Madden Tanner, is our co-founder. He’s 12 years old,” Tanner said, recalling countless trips with Madden to Central Library; each one serving as a point of entrepreneurial inspiration.
“As we did that, he began to say, ‘Can we build a book club?’ … So, we did.”
What is Royale Cohesive Network?
Royale Cohesive Network is a nonprofit effort designed to create a platform for young people 6 to 25 and to empower them to engage in educational and professional development experiences that can create pathways to wealth.
Click here to learn more about the pillars of the organization.
Together, Tanner and her then-6-year-old started hosting literacy meetups across Kansas City on the second Saturday of every month. The gatherings began small, focused first on connecting with other neighborhood boys to develop and strengthen their reading and comprehension skills before eventually expanding to reach kids of all ages, races, and genders.
“It grew from there because Madden turned it into an entrepreneurial thing,” she added, detailing her son’s passion for helping people and for writing; a talent that’s seen him write four books in the past six years.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. … [As a result,] I gravitated to something that I love that fulfilled me everyday. … Seeing that my child has gravitated toward that too is really awesome,” Tanner said, calling out Madden’s growing leadership skills.
But such success and personal growth didn’t spare Madden from the hold of imposter syndrome.
“One day, he wanted to quit because he worked alongside adults,” Tanner said. “He wanted to [work with] more people his age — who looked like him and that he could connect with.”
Such feelings prompted the opening chapter of Royale Cohesive Network — a nonprofit effort designed to create a platform for young people 6 to 25 and to empower them to engage in educational and professional development experiences that can create pathways to wealth.
“This organization is really spearheaded from [Madden’s] thoughts and ideas. He is a voice [for] the youth, so it’s easy for me to guide programming and things [that appeal to kids and parents] from his thoughts and ideas,” she said, adding that identifying gaps in existing, metro-based entrepreneurial thinking-focused programs helped round out the overall direction of the organization.
“Young people didn’t have a voice. They didn’t have visibility and they didn’t have support when it came to developing a business,” Tanner continued. “I wanted to start younger, because the more we have that conversation, the more they can have that [entrepreneurial] mindset.”
And such a mindset becomes a cohesive lifestyle, she explained, detailing the organization’s four program areas.
“Entrepreneurship is the center of everything. But without literacy, you can’t read your contracts. Without education, you don’t know how to navigate throughout life. Without gardening, without cooking, without mental sustainability [and other lifestyle-based skills], you’ll crash before you succeed,” she said. “We want to have those programs set in place [so] they can be strong entrepreneurs and have a great, successful run at it.”
Tanner’s mission to expose young people to entrepreneurship doesn’t stop with Madden or kids in the greater Kansas City community; it continues to thrive at home.
“We’re a whole entrepreneurial family. … My husband is an entrepreneur [with at least 15-years experience]. I also have a 6-, 4-, and a 2-year-old and they just launched a business a month ago,” Tanner said, citing the downtime amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for the siblings’ mobile boutique, which sells toddler-sized clothes at pop-up shops around the city.
“You have to be able to listen to your child and you have to be able to adapt their vision,” she said, encouraging other parents to dabble in entrepreneurship alongside their kids — a lesson far more rewarding than she could have dreamed as she’s raised Madden.
“Not only am I inspiring him, I’m invested in him. We get to explore and bring [his] creativity out and spread that throughout the community to support other families within our community. It’s been great,” she said, pondering what the future might hold for each of her children (and those raised in the community) as the program and early-childhood exposure to entrepreneurship continues to grow.
“I hope they become sustainable adults, leading and shaping their community. Our future, a lot of it is shaped from what we can offer to our community. If we can [help create] positive business, that are reinforcing [values] and are effective in our everyday lives … I’m happy with that.”
Youth Entrepreneur Day
The work of Tanner, her son, and dozens of other metro kids resulted in the 2019 proclamation of Youth Entrepreneur Day in Kansas City, designated as April 20.
Click here to learn more about the milestone achievement.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.