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February 13, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Second entrepreneurship camp for teens set for July

The University of Tennessee’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) learned a number of lessons when it co-sponsored last year’s inaugural “Empowered Teen Entrepreneurship Camp” that it expects to apply to the second annual event this summer.

Tom Graves, ACEI’s Director of Operations, told that “we have teamed-up this year with Junior Achievement (JA)” in an alliance that is expected to provide a “good base” for recruitment. He knows the organization well, having taught JA’s Titan business simulation course for years.

“Junior Achievement has hundreds of volunteers who can help us better penetrate the schools,” Graves said as he cited one of the unexpected challenges the planners faced in 2012.

“We were disappointed that we had to work so hard to get students,” he said. “By having JA involved and with a real focus on UT, we think we will be more successful.” ACEI has an obvious interest in using the week to recruit future undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship.

In addition to JA, the Anderson Center will again team with Entrepreneurs of Knoxville to offer the week-long, residential experience for high school students July 14 through 19. The event is open to 20 students, and Graves hopes to attract students from other communities.

“We will use the same process . . . validating the concept, building a business plan, understanding financials, , and making a pitch,” Graves said.

While we were talking with Graves, we asked him how the new residential program – “Entrepreneurship LLC” (ELLC) was going. It was launched this fall and profiled on (see

Graves said “it is going really well.” The students in the cohort presented their ideas at an early December event before the semester ended. During the upcoming semester, they will be focused on developing their idea into a business.

“They have a lot of interest in social causes,” Graves said, adding that this fall has been his first experience working with freshmen.

ACEI offers a variety of programs beyond the “Empowered Teen Entrepreneurship Camp” and ELLC. They include the twice-a-year “Vol Court,” “Boyd Venture Fund Competition” and annual “ACEI Undergraduate Business Plan Competition.”

Graves characterizes the collective set of initiatives as key to ACEI’s “talent development mission.”

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