Not your traditional summer camp: one for entrepreneurship

Jul 27, 2012

Repetition is the name of the game to turn high schoolers into good entrepreneurs.

All this week, high school students taking part in an entrepreneurship boot camp at the South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) in Syracuse have been forced to practice pitching business ideas and cold-calling clients over-and-over.

"The practical piece is really key," says El-Java Abdul-Qadir, and instructor at SSIC.

This is the first year of the boot camp and twenty kids are taking part, but organizers are hoping it will get bigger next summer.

The campers were broken up into teams and tasked with creating a business model by week's end. But we're talking about companies a lot more complex than lemonade stands or a painting business. The models have to be green and sustainable.

Students are working on ideas like solar-paneled LED street lighting and wind farms.

But along with their big business plan, the students have to come up with a different business idea each morning and pitch them to their peers.

Exposure

While the startup ideas are just for practice, the goal of the boot camp is to get people interested in starting a business at a young age.

"What we know from research is people who are exposed to entrepreneurship at an earlier age, either through family or through education, go into entrepreneurship," says Abdul-Qadir.

And hopefully not scare them off:

"I've learned it's a lot of work," says Jessica Kuntz, 14.She has aspirations of following in her mother's foot steps, who owns a small business.

Kuntz says she's become a lot more comfortable presenting ideas and making those phone calls.

There are intangibles to being a good entrepreneur, like a constant desire to create and improve. Mike Dehart, 18, has a pretty good strategy already.

"I carry around a notebook with me everywhere I go," he says. "I write down thing I see: stuff I want to research, how does this work? Or why is this like this and why can’t it be better?"

The boot campers will present their final ideas tonight to their mentors, peers and family. And then its time to start dreaming up their next big idea.