They’re energetic, inquisitive and full of ideas to start new profit and not-for-profit businesses. They are driven by very different reasons, but they have one thing in common – they are the inaugural class in the region’s first ever residential “Empowered Teen Entrepreneurship Camp” underway on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).
I had a chance to observe the group of teenagers on Tuesday during the second full-day of their week-long experience that ends on Friday night. As a sponsor of a scholarship for one of the students, I also had a chance to meet him and his teammate who are developing a business plan for a product that could supplant the famous swoosh brand. Time will tell, but their enthusiasm was clearly evident.
The 14-person class – three initial registrants cancelled at the last minute – includes 11 women and a total of nine minority students. They range in age from 15 to 19 years old.
The inaugural camp is sponsored by UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI), the Ultimate Life Institute (ULI), and Entrepreneurs of Knoxville (EOK).
Tom Graves, ACEI’s Director of Operations, said he was “very pleased” with the first effort and characterized the class as “a great mix.”
The class instructor during my visit was ULI’s Juan Casimiro. Now with more than 20 years of experience as a public speaker, entrepreneur, educator, coach and mentor, Casimiro specializes in building individual and organizational strength from within. His ease of interaction with the budding entrepreneurs was clearly evident.
Two UT alumni entrepreneurs – Jake Baron and Kristi Palmer – were part of the coaching team that worked with the students while I was present. Baron, who has designed and is marketing a unique line of one-strap backpacks, will be featured in an article next week on teknovation.biz. Palmer is developing a web-based service that will be featured in a teknovation article at a later date.