Creative young minds gain mentorship in camp's first year

Christopher Hawker (left), program speaker Photo by Tim Johnson

Teens from 6th grade to 11th can put their creativity and ambitions to use through the inaugural year of the Teen Entrepreneurs Summer Program hosted at Otterbein University.

The summer program offers two weeklong sessions, each day running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the first session starting Monday, June 8 and the second starting Monday, June 15. Tuition is $450. However, the program offers need-based scholarships covering 50 to 100 percent of tuition costs.

The camp was created by Pamela Stone, program executive director, and Terone O'Neal, program director, out of a lack they saw in similar entrepreneurial programs directed towards younger crowds.

"We did our research and a lot of these programs are for [grades] 11th and 12th and college students, so we wanted to tap into a lot younger crowd," says O'Neal. "Younger kids' brains are developing; they have time on [their] hands and are very creative."

The program will feature field trips to area corporations and startups, speakers and lessons covering topics such as cash flow, risk management and more. The speakers have all been entrepreneurs, but there's a catch.

"All of our speakers we selected had to start [being entrepreneurs] in their teens or early 20s," says O'Neal. "That way kids can connect with them."

Christopher Hawker, the camp's keynote speaker, fits the criteria to a T, having started his own business at age 13 breeding and selling exotic birds. He then moved on to manufacturing and selling an aquarium maintenance product at 16. Now, Hawker is president and founder of Trident Design, LLC, a company that aids startups in designing and funding products on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that was featured in Columbus CEO last July.

According to O'Neal, Hawker is one of many aspects that make the program appealing. Not only will teens gain inspiration and advice, they will also be able to develop their own business plans for a product or service to present à la Shark Tank, a popular show on ABC. After the presentation, program speakers and volunteers will not propose funding for the product, as judges do in the series. Rather, they will offer advice as well as mentorship long after the program is over.

Like many entrepreneurships, the program has plans for growth beyond Columbus. O'Neal hopes to expand the camp next year to Indiana and Kentucky.

-Julie France