The next great business idea may be percolating at Suffolk this summer.
Twenty-five high school students are participating in a two-week Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) “Biz Camp” hosted by the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship. It’s designed to introduce these teen-agers to the basic tenets of starting a business.
What they learn here has the potential to later blossom into a thriving business – and Karina Ray isn’t wasting any time as she absorbs the lessons learned. A dedicated gym denizen, she’s devised a business plan for a fitness app.
“I’ve always wanted to study business in college, and my mom found this program through an email she got from my school. She signed me up,” said Ray, 15, of Malden. “It’s been fun. I’ve learned what’s realistic and what’s not.”
Partnerships & scholarship
The Biz Camp is sponsored through a partnership with NFTE, the Citi Foundation, and the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester. This is Suffolk’s first year hosting the program, and the University also will offer a $5,000 Suffolk scholarship to a NFTE graduate.
Founded in 1987, NFTE is a national organization that designs programs to encourage young people from low-income communities to stay in school and identify business opportunities that can benefit their future. Jennifer Green, NFTE’s New England region director, said the organization has partnerships with high schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont cities to provide courses in entrepreneurship. What the Biz Camp does is condense an academic-year-long class into an intensive two-week program, which includes a day-trip to New York.
Putting business fundamentals to work
On that trip, each student is given a $25 loan to purchase small items such as jewelry or sunglasses. When they return, the students take part in a community-selling event where they can resell the items. If a $1 hat is sold for $10, the student gets to keep the profit, and the loan is repaid. It’s an example of how NFTE teaches tangible business fundamentals, Green said.
“The structure of the day is content, learning, entrepreneurship -- everything about learning how to start a business, but also creating an entrepreneurial mindset in these students so they understand what that is and what that means,” Green said. “Also, the students walk away having actually written a business plan, and presented a business plan. They walk away with career readiness skills. Ideally, they’ll have an understanding of what the entrepreneurial mindset is and how it will serve them in school, college, and the workplace.”
Mentors from the business world
Visitors to the camp include community volunteers from various business fields. Santander Bank sent 30 volunteers to give students one-on-one mentoring about their individual business ideas and plans.
“They came and really helped us with our projects and what business ideas we want,” Ray said. “It was cool to get different opinions from them.”
Kiara Curet, 17, from Brockton wanted to find a summer program that fed her nascent interest in business. She found it with NFTE at Suffolk.
“I’ve always been curious about starting a business,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot, and it’s only been two days, so I know that at the end of two weeks I’ll have even more knowledge. I don’t know if I want to major in business [in college] and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to give this program a chance. It’s given me a realistic sense of what the business world is like. It’s been an eye-opener.”
“Ready to rock”
On the final day of the camp, the students will participate in a business plan competition, with the winner getting $1,000. The judges will include community business leaders, entrepreneurs, and Suffolk professors.
“We’re not looking for someone to make a million dollars today, and they shouldn’t be judged on that,” Green said. “The important thing is these kids all have their plans, and they’re ready to rock.”