Striving for greatness: High school students learn entrepreneurship lessons during weeklong camp

Envision a center that’s open 24 hours a day—a place for kids to go whenever they need it. It offers counseling and tutoring, as well as field trips and even boxing lessons.

“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, called BOSS Summer Camp, held at George Washington this summer.

“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 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 work on a project during the BOSS Program held at George Washington High School July 2019. Photo Courtesy: Victor Hill, Shadowbox Photography

“Students learn about bringing their ideas to market and what that takes. They learn about pricing, management, finance, promotion and marketing. As you watch the students learn and develop and grow throughout the week, you see the difference you’re making.”

“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, offering it to Richmond, Indiana schools and across the globe – in locations including Tunisia, Mexico, India and South Africa. 

In Indianapolis, the SOURCE - BOSS George Washington HS Entrepreneurship Summer Camp program was formed and hosted by IUPUI’s Office of Community Engagement, Source River West Entrepreneurship Center, and Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center. Curriculum and instruction was provided by Scales from the IU East Entrepreneurship Center. Additional support was provided by IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI and the IU CREED Red Fund.

This program has been an experience. I never thought I’d be doing something like this. It took me out of my comfort zone, and I’ve learned a lot.

Corion Washington, senior high school student

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.

“I’ve learned a lot about marketing and finance, and I’ve learned how you can save and 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 where anyone can get an icy-cold refreshment at any time.

Students work during the weeklong BOSS program put on by IU East's Center for Entrepreneurship. Photos Courtesy: Victor Hill, Shadowbox Photography

The program culminates with a pitch competition, where students make their pitches to judges and work to sell their ideas. In this case, the competition was held at the IU 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 program helps students achieve their goals,” said Peggy Daniels Lee, clinical associate professor of operations and supply chain management and faculty chair of the Kelley Indianapolis Undergraduate Program, both at the Kelley School. Lee helped onsite throughout the weeklong program.

“From Monday to Friday, I saw these students come from all over the city for this program –by bus, bike or car; you name it. They’ve consistently shown up and have been engaged. They’ve learned from local entrepreneurs 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 do, there are people who support their goals from all over the community.”

Not everyone who participates is going to go into business, and this program goes beyond that. I’ve seen students gain not only a better understanding of business, but also life lessons: Show up on time, look people in the eye, shake their hand and think through a plan.

Steve Thrash, Source River West Entrepreneurship Center

"Tim has done a tremendous job connecting with the 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 also life lessons: 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 the next generation of citizens forward, whether they pursue business or not.”

PHOTOS: George Washington High School students learn about entrepreneurship during weeklong program.  Photo One: Courtesy Victor Hill