Build-A-Business camp exposes youth to entrepreneurship

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COLUMBIA - "I don't know that you can teach entrepreneurship...I think you're born to be one," said Annette Driver, owner of a Jefferson City-based company.

Driver is one of four business owners who presented her marketing dilemma to kids aged 12 to 18 Tuesday as part of Build-A-Business camp for youth.

The kids had to brainstorm solutions to problems they were given from local businesses and present their ideas back to the entrepreneurs. This is part of a five day camp where youth learn how to start their own business.

"Here you learn what it takes, and what you have to do, and how to get started. And they help you, they give you ideas," said 15-year-old Taylor Plunkett who is a first time participant in the program.

"It takes a lot of meeting people, and a lot of confidence to be able to put yourself out there with your idea, because that's not always easy," she said.

Program director Steven Henness said the program offers leadership opportunities and hands-on experience for youth so they can practice the skills they need to be business leaders. 

"I think today has shown that youth are leaders of today, we don't have to wait until they're older for them to be contributors. We've seen that in the ideas we've had, the enthusiasm they've had and the creativity they've brought to the table," said Henness.

The participants will compete in a pitch competition on their last day of camp after working for a week to solidify their ideas. The winner of the competition is invited to present their idea at #BOOM in 2015 which is a one-day summit and pitch competition open to anyone with a business idea.

In the long term, Henness said he sees these kids starting businesses in their own communities.

"We see entrepreneurship as an engine for economic development, for creating jobs," he said.