Youth Entrepreneurs Build Businesses at ESI Camp

Twenty-five innovative youth launched new businesses and expanded existing businesses during a four day EntrepreneurShip Investigation-ESI Camp conducted last week in Valley County.  The free event featured opportunities to learn about individual entrepreneurial talents, network with local entrepreneurs and learn about their businesses, consult with local financial advisors to review business plans, and sell new products at a market place event on the Valley County Courthouse lawn!  Campers also enjoyed delicious lunches and snacks from local caterers and restaurants.  The camp was made possible through financial support from the Valley County Community Foundation Fund-Geweke Youth Endowment and camp partners including UNL Extension, Valley County Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce.

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EntrepreneurShip Investigation-ESI Camp encourages kids to explore their personalities, talents and hobbies and learn how to turn those interests into business ideas. Campers are also challenged to develop their leadership, communication and entrepreneurial skills, identify business needs in their communities and develop ways to market local businesses on a global scale.

Campers spent the first day investigating entrepreneurship opportunities with a special guest presenter, Sue Ellen Pegg, Recruitment Coordinator, UNL-College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.  At noon campers and their parents visited the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce and Valley County Economic Development Offices with Caleb Pollard, Executive Director and Kristina Foth, Business Development and Marketing Specialist to learn about local opportunities for business development and lawful business activities, including regulations for copyrights, trademarks, patents and sales tax filing.  The group also discussed the unique qualities of our area and benefits of living and working in rural Nebraska. During the afternoon session, campers toured Zangger’s Popcorn Hybrids. Josh Zangger helped campers understand every component of the business from seed production, to product testing to global marketing strategies.  Campers also enjoyed taste-testing many varieties of popcorn grown on the farm.    Youth ended the day by exploring what it takes to transform an idea into a product or service and creating their new business ventures.

Expanding on the first day’s experiences, campers began the second day by visiting with a panel of real life entrepreneurs to learn about their business ventures and why these business owners have chosen rural Nebraska as their home.  The guest panel included Kevin Kreger (River Valley Remodeling & The Normal Roasting Company), Adair Aballagh (SubConn Manufacturing, Inc) and Barb David (Oak Ridge Farms). Then campers took a crash course in business basics and began preparing the products to start their new business ventures with instruction from Jennifer Remmereid, OHS Digital Media/Business Teacher and Kayla Hinrichs, UNL Extension Educator, Central Area IV.  The kids were introduced to the financial and marketing concepts involved with running a business as they calculated expenses versus income and created promotional materials for their businesses. Next, campers presented their business plans to local bankers and received seed money to purchase the materials and marketing tools needed to produce their new products and promote their businesses.  KNLV Radio gave veteran campers a special treat by inviting them to participate in Party Line Part 2 and record public service announcements to promote the ESI Market Place.  All of the campers worked very hard to create the unique products that would kick-start their businesses at the market place!

On the third day, campers were greeted by Dr. Tom Field, Director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  Dr. Field led the youth participants through exciting activities to enhance their leadership development, entrepreneurial spirit and marketing skills. At noon, the campers learned about an innovative agribusiness venture from Staab Farm and Ranch.  In the afternoon, campers learned how to create effective marketing pitches to enhance their communication with customers.  Dr. Field’s enthusiastic and encouraging instruction motivated campers to be confident with taking risks to achieve their business dreams.

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On the final morning, the group learned about the powerful impact of local philanthropy efforts from Dahn Hagge and Jean Stowell with the Valley County Community Foundation Fund.  Next campers explored effective customer service practices and prepared pricing sheets, order forms, and cash boxes.  At noon it was Show Time!  Campers set up booths on the Courthouse square displaying their products for sale, offering copper creations, hand-made soaps, bath salts and lotions, duct tape wallets, hand-crafted jewelry, travel size chalk boards with homemade chalk, hair accessories, golf ball key chains, decorative Chanticleer coasters, personalized signs and kitchen accessories, customized decals, designer potted flowers, homemade pet treats, hand-painted fishing lures and mailboxes and more! Numerous community members and families joined the campers at the Market Place to purchase products and celebrate the campers’ hard work and new businesses!

“There were many highlights for youth during the week of camp.  The guest speakers and local entrepreneurs offered new encouragement and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and business ventures in rural Nebraska!   During the Market Place Event it was exciting to see our community celebrating youth and business with their show of support. There were many valuable connections and partnerships developed among youth, business leaders, service organizations, and the community throughout the week!  We wish these young innovative entrepreneurs bountiful success with their businesses!” said Dahn Hagge, HomeTown Competitiveness Coordinator with the Valley County Community Foundation Fund.

ESI is an award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum developed in 2005 through a partnership with the Nebraska Community Foundation’s HomeTown Competitiveness, the Nebraska Department of Education, UNL Extension and others.

“It was so enjoyable to work with this year’s 25 entrepreneurs! We had a great class with excellent speakers and local business professionals who shared their passion for what they do. We are so blessed to live in a rural area with so many talented entrepreneurs who offer services we can enjoy locally. Our young people have great examples of ways they can appreciate a rural lifestyle while having a business that can benefit our local residents, Nebraskans and people across the globe. Rural Nebraska has a great future!” stated Kayla Hinrichs, UNL Extension Educator in Central Area IV Counties. and co-organizer and facilitator of the ESI Camp.

Local project partners including the Valley County Community Foundation Fund, UNL Extension-Central Area IV, Ord Area Chamber of Commerce and Valley County Economic Development are committed to providing this camp as an annual opportunity for area youth!

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