Six high school students spent a week at IDEA Bank’s first summer entrepreneurship camp to learn the basics of business planning. The event concluded with a business plan competition, with the winner receiving a $2,000 scholarship to Troy University.
Co-sponsored with the Troy University Small Business Development Center and the Wiregrass Conservation and Resource Development Council, the goal of the camp was to prepare participants to enter the market, said Juliana Bolivar, director of TROY’s SBDC.
“Entrepreneurship is not limited to certain ages. Often younger people have great ideas and just need the tools to develop their idea into a solid, functioning business,” she said. “That’s where we want to step in and help them develop the skills they need to succeed.”
Students learned the principles of business planning, financial planning, law, marketing and brand development. The camp also touched on entrepreneurial thinking and confidence, pitching an idea, sales pitch and professional communications. Professionals from the Sorrell College of Business, SBDC, Troy Bank & Trust and local small business owners provided hands-on instruction throughout the week.
On Monday, July 18, students competed in a Shark Tank-style competition in front of a diverse panel of expert judges. IDEA Bank director Lynn George said introducing the competition aspect encouraged them to dive deeper into their business ideas.
“It gets a little more serious and they go a little deeper into what they’re trying to communicate because they’re trying to make an impression and win something,” she said. “On the other hand, this camp aims to support their entrepreneurial goals. By providing a scholarship to the university, it simply enables someone to further their education and get one step closer to entrepreneurship in their real life. It was impressive and encouraging to see them buy in.”
Emily Stokes, 15, of Highland Home, Ala. won the scholarship with his Blackbird Paper plan. Blackbird Paper aims to provide eco-friendly, handmade paper products to be used for invitations, such as scrapbooking materials, stationery, business cards and more.
Her idea was born in 2018 while living in Sri Lanka after seeing staff at an elephant orphanage create paper made from the fibers found in elephant waste. After hearing about the Entrepreneurship Camp, she realized that her papermaking hobby could be a business.
“Seeing that was really inspiring,” she said. “I used to make paper as a hobby, but when the Entrepreneurship Camp came along, I realized I could do so much more. Even if my business is not successful, the skills I will gain from this will help me in life.”
In addition to starting her business one day, Stokes said she developed an interest in cybersecurity. Whether she chooses to explore entrepreneurship or security, she has already decided that her college home will be TROY.
“I was planning to come to TROY anyway, so the fact that I got this scholarship is amazing,” she said. “It will help me a lot with my college expenses.”
Other business ventures include SuperKidz, a nonprofit program for youth, Short n Sweet, a candy truck, Lavish Lexis Wellness, a line of accessories and natural skin care products, Urban Bags, a line of bags designed to conceal self-defense items, and Clover Threads, a line of hats designed to create cultural impact through positive messages.
SuperKidz creator Raymond McGauley, 17, of Enterprise, Ala., said his main goal for the week was to make professional connections and better understand the “why” behind his plan.
“I’m not here just for the scholarship, but to meet different people and make connections. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about achieving what I’m trying to do and helping my community,” he said. “I’ve learned how to examine myself and find why, why I’m doing this and how to stay true to what it’s all about.”
College of Business Dean Dr. Judson Edwards sat on the judging panel and said the work students put in throughout the week and in creating their plans proved their determination to succeed.
“The students who participated in the Entrepreneurship Camp were really impressive and the competition between them was fierce in the Tank experience,” he said. “This camp only further demonstrates the determination that young people in our area have to succeed in life and business, and we are proud that Sorrell Business College can support their development.”
Two galleries from the camp can be found online at the links below, and a race day gallery can be viewed here.