Newberry professor’s BizCamp sets out to teach young adults fundamentals of business

A group of Midlands students gathered at the Richland Library this week to learn the fundamentals of business ownership. Newberry College professor Paul Smith teamed up with Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union to host the third annual BizCamp to teach young people entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

Ethan Jones, Madgoly Miller and Ch'nya Tucker are students in the BizCamp program this year (photo by Kelly Petty).

Ethan Jones, Magjoly Miller and Ch’nyah Tucker are students in the BizCamp program this year (photo by Kelly Petty).

“In this global society,  where jobs security has become an endangered species, one must have a plan B,” Smith said. “To that end, students who can develop the entrepreneurial mindset early on are going to have a distinct advantage whether economic conditions are weak or strong.”

Smith started BizCamp after he became a certified Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship instructor, a program founded by entrepreneur Steve Mariotti in 1987. Smith applied the program’s curriculum into his organization, Business and Entrepreneurial Students Together LLC, in 2006 and developed the camp to build financial independence for young people.

Palmetto Citizens partnered with Smith after hearing the benefits and track record for the youth entrepreneurship camp, Smith said.

The camp consists of two, one-week sessions that culminate with a business plan competition. The students work in groups to build a business from scratch, including forming a name, developing a marketing plan, designing business cards and building a social media presence.

Smith specifically teaches the teens about both the front and back ends of business operations including unit of sale, return on investment, negotiation and start up capital. The students also gain soft skills training in public speaking and phone etiquette. Each business must also include a philanthropic component to their business plan.

At the end of the week, the students engage in a “Shark Tank” style business competition where they pitch their company to a group of judges selected by Palmetto Citizens to earn seed capital to run their businesses.

“Mr. Smith drilled in our heads to think outside the box,” said ninth-grader Magjholy Miller. “Now I sort of see how I can think outside of the box–that I can start thinking more imaginative ideas to actually put into action.”

Miller, who came up with MCM Baked Goods LLC to sell natural, organic pastries, said she learned how to better jump start a company and earn extra income.

Other students found that it was important to develop public speaking skills.

“I am still trying to just walk up to random people and talk to them,” said 11-year-old Ethan Jones, who started EJ Concessions LLC a few months ago with his brother. He said he thought the camp taught him to be less shy.

Columbia High School tenth-grader Ch’nyah Tucker, who worked with a team to develop a babysitting and tutoring company called Kidz Kare LLC, thinks other young people should not be afraid to step out and start their own business.

“Go for it. How would you know if you could actually do something if you don’t try for  it,” Tucker said.

Reflecting on the life of Walt Disney, who was fired from the Kansas City Star newspaper to go on to develop iconic characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Smith hopes young people learn the value of hard work and persistence.

“I want them to believe in themselves, follow their passions regardless of the naysayers because America is still the land of opportunity,” Smith said. “Secondly, failure is an option provided you learn from it and persevere.”

Categories: Business