Six high school students spent a week at the IDEA Bank’s first Entrepreneurship Summer Camp to learn the basics of business planning. The event culminated in a business plan competition with the winner receiving a $2,000 Harrel McKinney Entrepreneur Endowed Scholarship to Troy University.
From July 11-15, students learned the principles of business planning, financial planning, law, marketing and brand development. The camp also touched on the entrepreneurial mindset and confidence, pitching an idea, sales pitches and professional communications. Professionals from the Sorrell College of Business, the Small Business Development Center at Troy University, Troy Bank & Trust and local small business owners provided hands-on instruction throughout the week.
On Monday, July 18 the students participated in a “Shark Tank” style pitch competition to a diverse panel of expert judges. IDEA Bank Director Lynne George said introducing the competition aspect encouraged them to dig deeper into their business ideas.
“It becomes a little bit more serious, and they go a little bit 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 is meant to support their entrepreneurial goals. By giving away a scholarship to the University, that just gives someone the opportunity to further their education and get one step closer to pursuing entrepreneurship in their real life. It was impressive and encouraging to see them buy in.”
Emily Stokes, 15, from Highland Home, Ala. won the scholarship with her plan for Blackbird Paper. Blackbird Paper aims to provide eco-friendly, handcrafted paper products to be used for invitations, as scrapbooking materials, stationery, business cards and more.
Her idea was born in 2018 while living in Sri Lanka after seeing employees at an elephant orphanage create paper made from the fibers found in elephant waste. After hearing about the Entrepreneurship Camp, she realized her paper-making hobby could be a business.
“Seeing that was really inspiring,” she said. “I’ve been making paper as a hobby, but when the Entrepreneurship Camp came up I realized I could do so much more. Even if my business isn’t successful, the skills I’m taking away from this will help me in life.”
In addition to getting her business off the ground one day, Stokes said she’s developed an interest in cyber security. Whether she chooses to explore entrepreneurship or security, she’s already decided her college home will be TROY.
“I’d been planning on coming to TROY anyway, so the fact that I did get this scholarship is amazing,” she said. “It’ll help me a lot with the cost of going to college.”
Other business plans included SuperKidz, a non-profit program for youth, Short n Sweet, a candy food truck, Lavish Lexis Wellness, a line of accessories and natural skin care products, Urban Bags, a line of handbags designed to conceal self-defense items, and Clover Threads, a line of beanies intended to create cultural impact through positive messaging.
SuperKidz creator Raymond McGoley, 17, from Enterprise, Ala. said his main goal for the week was to make professional connections and gain a better understanding of the “why” behind his plan.
“I’m not just here for the scholarship, but to meet different people and make connections. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about getting what I’m trying to do out there and helping my community,” he said. “I learned how to examine myself and find my why, why I’m doing this and how to stay true to what this is all about.”
College of Business Dean Dr. Judson Edwards served on the panel of judges 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 thoroughly impressive, and the competition was fierce among them in ‘the Tank’ experience,” he said. “This camp only further demonstrates the determination young people in our area have to succeed in life and business, and we’re proud the Sorrell College of Business can support their development.”
The event was sponsored by the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council.
“The Wiregrass Resource and Conservation Development Council believed in our vision and trusted us to put together something meaningful,” George said. “Their support of and trust in the IDEA Bank made this summer program possible, which was potentially life-changing for the six students who participated.”
Two galleries from camp can be found online at the links below, and a gallery from competition day can be viewed here.