Nine self-nominated students from East Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia attended the second annual UT Empowered Teen Entrepreneurship Residential Camp held from Sunday, August 14 to Friday, August 19.
"We had kids from age 13 to 18 and it was interesting because that's a big age group," said Donna Walker, founder of Walter Consulting. "They all got along great, there was no bullying. They were all competing against each other, but they were also pulling for one another."
According to a Tennessee Today press release, the week-long curriculum included teaching materials from the Anderson Center and Junior Achievement of East Tennessee as well as mentoring from entrepreneur volunteers and on-site visits. Students were expected to identify and evaluate a potential business opportunity, determine and validate a target market and then develop a business plan. Camp participants did this by using a computer- based business simulation developed by Junior Achievement.
"The first time I told them what we expected them to deliver, their eyes glazed over," said Tom Graves, operations director for the UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "But as they learned the different steps and the different techniques, they realized they can do it."
In addition to putting together a business plan, students had on-site visits with Knoxville Entrepreneur Center in Market Square and Proton Power, a local clean energy developer, where they spoke with successful entrepreneurs.
"On Wednesday, we went to Proton Power and Sam Weaver, who is the found- er of Proton Power, he greeted (us) at the door, he shook each one's hand and thanked them for coming," Walker said. "He took them to the conference room and then he told them about his dream."
Students were encouraged to center their business plan on something they are passionate about. Walker felt it was important for the camp participants to know that entrepreneurship is not just business or making a service.
"It's also an area of medicine, it's in the area of engineering, architecture, an area of music and drama," said Walker. "They [entrepreneurs] understand about business and innovation."
At the end of the week, a camp "trade show" was hosted as a final presentation at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church. Each team gave a 10-minute presentation and had a kiosk that included their business plan as well as a video commercial, advertising poster and business cards. The top three teams competed for cash awards of $300, $200 and $100.
With the camp's second year ending, planning for the third year will begin shortly. "It is kind of up in the air until we see our time and how much time people have to commit to it, because it is a very labor- intensive activity on the part of those who put it together," Graves said.
This year's sponsors included Tennessee Technology Development, PetSafe Corporation Philanthropy Committee, Sam Weaver from Proton Power and many others.