Venturelab Summer Camp: Youth Startup 101

This post is graciously sponsored by Venturelab: Entrpreneurship Education for Kids.

venture lab summer camps austin san antonio
 

I was not exactly on my game this year, so summer came up quickly, and I had no plans other than SURVIVE. Well, I’m technically still here, so yay!

Last week my girls had a fantastic opportunity to attend a new camp here in Austin presented by Venturelab. I wrote a little about Venturelab a few weeks ago, but now that I’ve had the chance to see the organization in action, I have even more to tell you.

In short, it was awesome, and I cannot say enough good things about it, and so now here you are to hear all of the good things.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
Pretending to melt away by the super hot sun. IDK, my kids are weird.

All three of my girls attended Venturelab’s Youth Startup 101, a week dedicated to teaching kids ages 5 – 10 all about the entrepreneurial process on a fun, kid-friendly level. They spent the week learning about what it means to be an entrepreneur and working with a team to take something from an idea to a finished product, complete with a prototype and commercial.

Prior to camp, I did my best to explain to the girls what the camp would be about, but they still weren’t quite sure what they were headed into. And given the limited information I got from them during the week, I was blown away when I attended Pitch Day on Friday and got to see all of the businesses and products the kids had been working on all week.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
Checking out the iPads and other activities available before camp starts for the day.

Throughout the week, the kids worked with their teams to come up with an idea based on a problem that needed to be solved. Then they brainstormed solutions to that problem. Those solutions became the beginning stages of their budding businesses or product development.

Each team was given $100 in Venture Bucks to spend on supplies in the Venturelab store to build their prototypes and create their materials.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

The Bug Stabber

Zoe was in the 5 – 7 age group. I’m telling you, the problems these kids solved were so simple, yet so imaginative, I was blown away by their creativity and the solutions they found.

For example, apparently during a break, someone found a roach in the bathroom (don’t judge – those things are everywhere). So with the help of their teacher, Scott, the kids started thinking about ways they could pick up the bug without having to touch it.

And the Bug Stabber was born.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

venture lab summer camps youth startup
Zoe would like to point out that although the presentation board says Bug Handler, her version is called the Bug STABBER. She was also the spokesmodel.

Basically, you stab the bug to pick it up and dispose of it, then you can use the toothbrush to “clean up the juices.” [pause for gagging, but also for a slow clap, because that’s pretty genius]

Zoe and her partner built a prototype using supplies from the Venturelab store, conducted market research from other camp staffers, wrote and created a commercial for their product, then presented their product on Pitch Day.

I’m not lying, we have used the Bug Stabber since bringing it home. Real life.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
A closeup of the Bug Stabber’s stabbing mechanism.

 

Twinsies Swag Shop

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Rachel and Claire created their business around their current obsessions: comic books, hedgehogs, and each other. While it may be difficult to envision exactly how someone could create a business model around these random things, their teacher, Theresa, encouraged them and steered them to something fruitful: Twinsies Swag Shop, where they will sell you the swag you need to promote your business.

They created prototypes of the products they could sell – comic books (Claire wrote an entire comic book during this week of camp!), tshirts, jewelry, and plush hedgehogs (that they also made themselves).

The outcome: kids love swag.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
The latest comic: The Missing Tape
venture lab summer camps youth startup
Making these stuffed hedgehogs was her favorite part of camp.
venture lab summer camps youth startup
All the goods for sale.

All in all, I was super impressed with all of the products and businesses that the kids came up with. Other inventions/businesses included:

  • The Smell Good Trash Can – the solution to all your stinky trash!
  • Shoe Steppers – for little ones whose feet don’t quite reach the ground when sitting on a chair or bench (or for me on my own couch).
  • Cool Kids Comics – I mean, the name says it all.
  • R.A.O – Rainforest Activist Organization – headbands, jewelry, and tshirts, all benefitting the rain forests. They even had monthly sustaining subscriptions!

The kids from the Gamer camp also presented the games they had worked on designing all week. Rachel has her eye on that camp for sure.

After the presentations, parents had the opportunity to shop the Marketplace and purchase the products for sale and test out all of the video games from the Gamer camp. The kids got to see business in action as they collected cash from their sales. Partners split their profits and the kids were then free to spend their hard-earned cash on other products in the marketplace, if they wished, or take it home with them.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
Zoe proudly manning the shop.
venture lab summer camps youth startup
Kids love swag!

Life skills and entrepreneurial lessons learned

The kids learned some valuable lessons during their week at Venturelab’s Youth Startup:

  • The importance of working together as a team
  • Using real life situations to come up with a problem and brainstorming solutions to that problem
  • Trial and error of building prototypes
  • Using market research to come up with appropriate pricing
  • Creating advertisements and marketing materials for their business
  • Taking an idea and turning it into a business.

When I look at these valuable skills, it’s easy to assume that elementary-aged kids wouldn’t understand or be interested in the concept, but Venturelab’s instructors did a phenomenal job in guiding them through the process and making it fun.

venture lab summer camps youth startup
Shoe Steppers
venture lab summer camps youth startup
One of the video games from the Gamer camp.

On a side note, I want to mention that in the first couple of days, Rachel and Claire had some issues with teamwork, particularly with each other. As their mom, I wasn’t surprised to learn they were picking on each other, but I was disappointed that it caused stress for the other two members of their team. But I have to hand it to the Venturelab staff, who talked to them about working together as a team and about the choices they had the ability to make while at camp. Separating them into separate classes was a last resort. At home we followed up with a discussion about positive leadership and teamwork. All in all, it was just a bad day, and they came together to build a really cool presentation.

My favorite thing about the whole Venturelab concept is that it gives the kids such a feeling of accomplishment. During the week they would tell me here and there about what they were creating, but once we saw it all come together, I was so damn proud of them for seeing it through to the end. And they were proud of themselves for creating a successful business. We learned that ideas can come from anywhere, and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful. Each of the teams (and individual kids in the Gamer camp) came up with something so unique and creative, and I was blown away.

What started out as an unknown for us turned into a week of fun, educational activities that have certainly gotten my girls’ creative and entrepreneurial juices flowing. The pride they showed in all of their hard work, challenges and all, is well worth it, and we cannot wait to attend another Venturelab camp.

Programs at Venturelab

Along with Youth Startup, Ventreulab also offers the following camps:

  • High School Startup 101 (not available summer 2016)
  • Girl Startup 101
  • Maker
  • Gamer
  • Urban Farmer

More details can be found on each camp on the Venturelab site.

Venturelab also has a curriculum that can be integrated into schools to bring science and technology into the classroom. Find out more about their curriculum programs here, and definitely check out their videos on why entrepreneurial education is so important.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

    1. It was really cool. I knew it would be great, but as far as the engagement and excitement I got from my kids, it exceeded all of my expectations.

  1. Nothing like mashing fun with education. Heck I’m 31 & will probably never learn any of the skills they learned! Kudos to Venturelab & your little ladies on their businesses! Twinsies Swag Shop…Epic!!!

    1. I know! I hope it’s something they continue to cultivate. I really loved that they saw what they COULD create.

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