Small Business

What I Did This Summer at Business Camp


Several summer camps encourage teenagers to try out entrepreneurship—teaching them marketing, finance, and how to make a business plan

Instead of the traditional summertime pursuits of canoeing, hiking, and lanyard making, a number of teenage students across the country spent part of their summer participating in workshops, staring at computers, and attending seminars at business camp. Forget the sun dappled lake and lumpy bunk beds. In recent years a number of camps (BusinessWeek.com, 4/14/06) have cropped up designed specifically to nurture fledgling teenage entrepreneurs and give them real-world business experience.

At one time, it might have sounded absurd to spend part of one's summer indoors creating a business plan, mock ad campaigns, or running numbers into a viable budget. That is no longer the case. Many business-themed camps are sponsored or funded in part by large businesses such as Goldman Sachs (GS) or nonprofits such as the YWCA. Most last for a week or two and focus on one part of the population and/or a specific area of business.

For instance, The Girls Inc. Corporate Camp for Entrepreneurs, which launched in 2002, offers teenage girls from across the country a seven-day immersion camp in marketing, finance, and how to give a business presentation (BusinessWeek.com, 7/25/08). Another such camp that has been around since 1975 is Washington Business Week for teens sponsored by the nonprofit Private Enterprise Education, based in Olympia, Wash. In 1993, the Business Leadership Program, held at the University of Colorado in Boulder, launched its business camp as way to encourage minority students to take an interest in business education.

Since 1988, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship > (NFTE), a New York nonprofit that teaches business skills to low-income youngsters across the country, has conducted two-week intensive summer BizCamps across the country and abroad. (Software company CA (CA) has been providing financial support since 2006.) Designed for students between the ages of 13 and 18, budding entrepreneurs learn about fundamental business concepts through classroom instruction, field trips, seminars, and guest speakers. In the course of the camp, the students develop business and marketing plans and compete for cash prizes intended to help fund their businesses.

While the camps vary in approach and scope, they all have the same goal: to teach young people about business and entrepreneurship through hands-on learning.

Flip through this slide show to see students hard at work at the NFTE/CA Enterprising Youth Technology BizCamps in Florida, California, and New York this summer.

Perman is a staff writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

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