Virtual entrepreneurship camp provided life and workforce development skills

Michigan State University and Southwestern Michigan College partnership made August 2020 virtual entrepreneurship camp successful.

Three mock business logos
Three mock business logos created virtually during entrepreneurship camp to promote each business. Photo by Debra Barrett.

Michigan State University Extension and Educational Talent Search at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) are in the third year of a very successful partnership that provides collaborative programming for the young people enrolled in Educational Talent Search. Early in 2020, staff members began meeting and planning an entrepreneurship camp that would be offered in August to teach youth about starting their own business. Little did we know at the time as winter turned to spring that this very successful summer camp would have to be adapted to a virtual learning experience.

The attributes and skills of an entrepreneur include being positive, creative, a problem solver, flexible, communicator and many times a team player. These are coincidentally valuable life and workforce ready skills. This year’s virtual camp provided the perfect environment for the staff, participants and adult helpers to not only demonstrate but grow these sought-after skills.

During the Aug. 10-14 day camp, participants met with instructors, helpers and guest entrepreneurs through Zoom for three hours each day. Content was used primarily from the national 4-H curriculum BE THE “e” and MSU Extension’s Youth Business Guide to Success – Make the Most of Your 4-H Market Animal curriculum. In addition to using the features of Zoom technology including breakout rooms, we used Google Jamboards to encourage participant interaction. Working in small teams of three, participants created products from kits and materials mailed to them ahead of time to enhance learning.

Day one focused on getting to know one another while navigating Zoom and Jamboard. A variety of entrepreneurial assessments were used along with the Parker Team Player Survey to help participants and instructors build a repour for the days to follow. Day two included thinking outside the box, a basic business plan and getting acquainted with the products that included paracord bracelets, homemade soap and bees wax candles. Day three was spent working on products, learning about marketing and then a panel of entrepreneurs.

Day four focused on finishing product promotion and pitch, youth presenting their products and budgeting. The product slides depicting the three products created by participants are in the photo at the top of this article. Day five was used to wrap up the week’s experience, celebrate and evaluate. Participants were each provided a certificate of completion.

Our virtual entrepreneurship camp was a memorable success in part because of how well everyone worked together and supported each other. Several participants hope to attend camp again in 2021, hoping that it may be offered face to face.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or youth entrepreneurship, email us at 4-HCareerPrep@anr.msu.edu.

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