Summer Camp Helps Girls Find Inspiration To Start Their Own Business

By Matt McKinney The Virginian-Pilot WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A summer camp in Virginia is focused on empowering girls with the skills needed to someday start and run their own companies. VIRGINIA BEACH

Allison Daniels stood before a crowd of aspiring female entrepreneurs Monday morning to give her pitch. She told them about the ideas that race through her mind late at night, the ones that might someday inspire her next business plan.

"I'll do a bunch of research so I'll remember in the morning," she said.

Soap-making. Travel. A drug to cure multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune disease that has besieged millions of people, including her cousin.

Daniels, 14, doesn't know which idea to pursue yet -- but that's why she's there, she said.

Twenty soon-to-be freshmen at the Entrepreneurship and Business Academy at Kempsville High School began a four-day camp Monday geared toward empowering girls with skills to someday start and run their own companies.

The workshop is one of the first student activities at the Virginia Beach school division's eighth academy, set to officially open next month. Later this week, students will make their pitch in front of local entrepreneurs. The winner will receive $500.

"I'm not listening to who has the best plan, I'm listening to who has the most confidence, who has the most conviction and who's been inspired this week," said Angela Reddix, a Cox High School graduate and founder of Envision, Lead, Grow, a program designed to train girls to become future business leaders.

Reddix, CEO of Norfolk-based consulting firm ARDX, said she started the workshop after growing frustrated with seeing few women in the executive ranks. Among nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies in 2014, fewer than 5 percent had a female chief executive, according to a February study by the Washington nonprofit Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"As a woman, sometimes your dreams get put on the back burner," she said. "It's important to share with girls at this young age that you don't have to choose between your family and building your dreams."

On Monday, students clustered around tables thumbing through magazines to find images that articulate their passions. The rest of the week will include hammering out details of their plan and identifying potential obstacles. Students will also meet with local entrepreneurs to discuss the realities of running a business.

Academy Coordinator Meghan Timlin said the camp gives incoming students a taste of what's to come in the new program at Kempsville High.

"We plan to do things a little differently in a lot of our academy classes, and look at how you can come up with creative ideas," Timlin said. "For our students, it's about having an open mind. And hopefully the investment is worth it at the end of four years."

Samantha Renaud, 14, a self-proclaimed "fashion geek" with a flair for public speaking, hopes the camp -- and academy -- will be a venue to test her ideas. She said her parents have always encouraged her to be herself and do what she loves, but added she's still figuring it out.

"I know exactly what I can do, but I don't know where to start," Renaud said. "I need experience, and that's what we're getting here."

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