Young entrepreneurs in the making at the IDEA Bank’s Just START Camp

Published 10:53 am Friday, July 21, 2023

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Troy University’s IDEA Bank in Downtown Troy this week has played host to the 2023 “Just START” Entrepreneurship Summer Camp.

Students from all over the Wiregrass – and even Florida – came to Troy University’s IDEA Bank to take part in the “Just START” Entrepreneurship Camp this week.

The IDEA Bank was established at a former bank on the square in Troy in an effort to develop Troy into a regional center for economic growth by creating entrepreneurial resources and collaboration opportunities for the community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, local businesses and leaders in the area. This year, the theme of the annual camp is “Just START” with the motto being, “vision, creation, plan, drive and execution.”

The camp is a weeklong session that allows high school students to learn from local entrepreneurs in the area as they develop a pitch for their very own business with a big prize available at the end.

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“These students have come from the Wiregrass, all over the state and even Florida to the university with a business idea and they are cultivating that into a business pitch,” IDEA Bank Program Coordinator Mauree Alice Porter said. “Tomorrow, on Saturday, they will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win a $2,000 scholarship.”

There are students from Charles Henderson, Pike County Schools and Ariton that are attending the camp along with students from other areas in the Wiregrass like Elba, Skipperville and Dothan. Additionally, students from the Birmingham and Mobile areas, along with students from Florida, are attending the camp.

Throughout the week, the camp held workshops and activities for the students to learn about starting a business and entrepreneurship but also allowed the students to get a chance to learn from local entrepreneurs.

“I think it’s very important (for students) because not only does it give them a taste of the university but it also gives them a taste of what entrepreneurship is,” Porter said. “Something that is really special about our camp is that they have gotten a chance to talk to many entrepreneurs from the area that are local to Troy. I think that has been a really neat opportunity to just gain knowledge and wisdom from them. I think it will ultimately help them with their pitches and along their path to being an entrepreneur.”

Troy University graduate Sawyer Hennis speaks to campers.

Along with Porter, Troy University Assistant Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurial Studies Charla Brown and IDEA Bank Summer Camp Facilitator Hannah Dinkel are leading the camp. On Monday, campers got a chance to hear from IDEA Bank Director Lynne George, Troy Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Frank Thompson, Sorrell College of Business Management Professor Dr. James Montgomery and Studio 7 Owner Jonas Shaw.

On Tuesday, Common Ground Troy Executive Director Clint Free, Sorrell College of Business Program Coordinator E. Preston Pritchett III and Sips Beer Garden owner Lyndsay Taylor spoke to the campers. On Wednesday, campers got to hear from former Troy Bank and Trust Vice-President of Marketing and Public Relations Dianna Lee and Troy University lecturer and program coordinator Chris Stagl.

On Thursday, Kingdom Creations Studios CEO Colvin Prince Jr. spoke to the students and on Friday, the campers heard from Troy University graduates Sawyer Hennis and Catelyn Blackmon.

Troy University graduate Catelynn Blackmon is not only a business owner but is also a marketing advisor for the Small Business Development Center.

Hennis is the owner of clothing brand Cypress Creek Outfitters, while Blackmon is the CEO of Dreams Agency. Blackmon is also a marketing advisor for the Small Business Development Center at Troy University. Hennis spoke to the campers about professionalism in business, while Blackmon spoke about confidence in business.

“We’ve had speakers every day leading sessions and entrepreneurs speaking about their journey,” Porter said. “(Students) have had many, many ways of gaining knowledge and wisdom throughout the week. I think it’s been a really good experience for them.”

Some of the business ideas the campers have come up with include an “all encompassing” tutor program, clothing and shoe brands, fitness programs and more. The campers will present their business ideas and pitches to a panel of judges for a chance to win the scholarship at 9:30 a.m. on July 22.