Envision a center that’s open 24 hours a day. A place for kids to go whenever they need it. It offers counseling, tutoring, gives boxing lessons and takes kids on trips and to the movies.
“I picture this as a youth center, but different. Better,” said Damari North, a sophomore at George Washington High School. “I know what it’s like to sit at home with nothing to do. I want to make a place where kids can come if they have problems at home, if you feel like you don’t belong, you can come to us. It’ll be open 24-7.”
He calls it – Underground Playground. This is just one of the business ideas started by a dozen high school students during a week-long entrepreneurship camp held at George Washington this summer, called BOSS Summer Camp.
“This is a way for high school students to learn about entrepreneurship and to get inspired for the future,” said Tim Scales, senior lecturer for the IU East School of Business and Economics and the director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Economic Education. Scales runs the BOSS Program across the globe, and this is the first time he’s held it in Indianapolis.
“Students learn about bringing their ideas to the market and what that takes. They learn everything from pricing, management, finance, promotion, to marketing. As you watch the students learn and develop and grow throughout the week, you see the difference you’re making and just how worth it, it is.”
“I learned a lot about business and trying to achieve your goals,” said North. “I know it takes a lot of work to get there, but you’ll get there eventually — You just have to put in the effort. It makes me think after I leave school, I’ll have something to use.”
Tim Scales started the BOSS program back in 2007 during his first year as a professor at IU East, and he’s run it across the globe – in locations including Tunisia, Mexico, India and South Africa. In Indianapolis, the program is put on by the IU East Entrepreneurship Center and supported by IUPUI’s Office of Community Engagement, Source River West Entrepreneurship Center, IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI and Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center. Funding for the summer camp came partially from the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and IUPUI. In addition, the IU CREED Red Fund provided a grant to purchase an additional piece of equipment for the BOSS program.
Students in the program attend George Washington High School and participate in the HUB after-school program, which keeps students busy during the summer with activities like financial literacy, money, swimming, etc.
“I’ve learned a lot about marketing and finance, and how you can save – then how to put all our ideas together,” said Corion Washington, who will be a senior at George Washington this year. Corion’s business is called Ice on a Walk – An ice cone machine stationed in California where anyone can get an icy-cold refreshment, at any time.
The program culminates with a pitch competition, where students make their pitch to judges and work to sell their ideas. In this case, the competition was held at the I
U Kelley School of Business on IUPUI’s campus. The winning pitch? Chasidy Morris’ pitch for Custom Sneakers, a business that would customize sneakers with art, a name, or a design, with an emphasis on shoes for girls.
“This helps students achieve the goals they have,” said Peggy Daniels Lee, clinical associate professor of operations and supply chain management and the chair of the Kelley Indianapolis Undergraduate Program. Lee helped onsite throughout the weeklong program.
“From Monday to Friday, I saw these students come from all over the city for this program – whether that was by bus, bike, car, you name it. They’ve consistently shown up and have been engaged. They’ve learned from entrepreneurs in the community who they can relate to. I want these students to know that pursuing business is possible – however they’d like to do that and if they’d like to do that — and that there are people who support their goals from all over the community.”
“Tim has done a tremendous job connecting with our next generation of entrepreneurs through this program. We plan to explore opportunities to expand this and related initiatives that support a thriving community and entrepreneurial ecosystem on the near-west side,” said Steve Thrash, executive director and entrepreneur in residence at Source River West Entrepreneurship Center, a hub for entrepreneurs in Indy’s Near West/River West neighborhood supported by the IUPUI Office of Community Engagement.
“Not everyone who participates is going to go into business – and this program goes beyond that,” explained Thrash. “I’ve seen students gain not only a better understanding of business, but life lessons, as well: Show up on time, look people in the eye, shake their hand, and think through a plan. All of these are important lessons that will propel our next generation of citizens forward, whether they pursue business or not.”
“I can see these students someday starting their own business and employing people in their own neighborhoods,” said Daniels Lee. “By helping them start businesses, we’re helping the economy. The more people we have involved in the economy in a real way, the better the economy will be.”
“I’ve had students in other programs that a year from now, two years from now, have opened their own business. They’re raising families, supporting their families, and doing well as entrepreneurs. That’s why I do it,” said Scales.
It’s inspired these students already – Take, for example, Corion Washington – who has big dreams for the future.
“After high school, I want to go to Lincoln Tech and learn to be an electrician. From there, I’ll go to the Navy and be an engineer. After that, I’d like to come back, go to Purdue and become an engineer there. Eventually, I’d like to come back to George Washington and be a coach.”
Washington says he developed such a plan because of the support of some key people in his life.
“A lot of people have pushed me, because I haven’t been on the right path lately, but they’ve pushed me to be where I am now, so I’m very thankful for everyone who has supported me,” he said.
“This program has been an experience,” Washington added. “I never thought I’d be doing something like this, but it took me out of my comfort zone and I’ve learned a lot.”
One of those lessons? Washington said this: “You should always strive for greatness, do what you believe in. Push yourself to greatness.”
Story by Teresa Mackin, assistant director of Communications and Media Relations, IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI.