The program adopts a new theme each year; last year the camp hosted guest speakers versed in cryptocurrency, and this year the teens will hear about post-pandemic economics. The theme for 2022 is “The Future of Work: The Labor Economy, the Creator Economy and Remote Work”.
The program was online for two years during the pandemic, and now it’s back in person, teaching a cohort of 13 aspiring entrepreneurs how to navigate cultural phenomena such as the Great Resignation and the widespread reconsideration of Jobs 9 -5.
It began Tuesday and will continue through Sunday at Perkiomen School in Pennsburg.
Each year, the program selects a slate of speakers and activities appropriate to the economic and cultural moment, said program director Rhonda Walker-Footman.
Thematic content complements a core curriculum on finance, values and corporate structure. During the week, students also work, in assigned teams, on conceptual business models of their own design. The camp ends with a competition for the best presentation and the best business model. Winners receive $50 Amazon gift cards.
Devin Lu, a rising senior from Marlboro High School in New Jersey, develops a music software business concept with his team.
“It would be used to take your favorite sounds from various artists and easily export them to other software; for example, cutting or isolating a specific instrument,” Lu said. “It would be easily downloadable and small, so it could be an app.”
Most business ideas conceived at the Teen Entrepreneur Challenge are not launched in the real world, although some campers choose to build on their designs after the program.
Teen Entrepreneur Challenge alumnus and Resident Assistant Joshua Dawson turned his camp business model into a $13,000 venture last month. Now a sophomore at the University of Delaware, Dawson runs the company, Capital Payments, with his peers in the program. Capital Payments is an ATM distribution company.
“Attending this camp is one of the best things I’ve ever done; they really helped shape me and my interests,” Dawson said. “It’s been a loopy moment to come back and help kids who want to go into business, like I did.”
Walker-Footman, who runs the program and advises campers, had a long career in business before moving into education. She has worked at companies such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, and she shares her industry experience with students.
In addition to learning business fundamentals, campers learn character and have free time to bond with each other. Lu said his biggest takeaway from the program was to “stay humble no matter who surrounds you,” as well as value diversity in business.
Walker-Footman said she loves seeing how tight-knit each group becomes after a few days, a sentiment Lu echoed.
“At the end of the day, my favorite thing is spending time with these people,” he said. “They really are an amazing group.”