A Victoria-born program designed to stimulate the entrepreneurial instincts of young kids is expanding this year to join a long list of summer camp options.
Startup Skool, which started in 2013 as a non-profit classroom program called Early Entrepreneurs, is offering a week-long camp experience in Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby and Kelowna for kids wanting to tap into their inner small businessperson.
“We started getting demand from parents and kids who were interested in the entrepreneurial aspect of our program and asking if we had anything out of the classroom,” said founder Kim Cope, who developed the idea while a University of Victoria student.
Cope tried out the camp program last year in Vancouver and the success led to this year’s expansion to the new sites for students between ages eight and 16.
“It’s a one-week crash course about everything you need to know about starting your own business, but we also incorporate design thinking and technology so students learn how to build a web site so they have a site to show off their business idea,” Cope said.
The summer course will run along the same lines of the classroom program that provides elementary schools with a program to educate students on entrepreneurship and global awareness, while honing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
The program has kids pitch their own business idea hoping to get seed money — between $100 and $500 — to develop the business. The goal is to use that money to turn a profit, and the profit raised is donated to charity.
Cope said they have been in nearly 200 schools in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario since launching.
“They learn about entrepreneurship and social responsibility,” Cope said, noting it’s also been a tool to get some kids, who may not get turned on by school, hooked on learning.
“For some students, they are natural-born entrepreneurs, but haven’t figured that out yet. And, in some cases, traditional school just hasn’t worked for them,” Cope said. She has often heard parents saying the program is the first time they have seen their kids excited about learning.
“Entrepreneurship, to me, is all about continuous learning, and I think for a lot of students [Startup Skool] may inspire them to continue to learn,” Cope said.
Victoria-based technology entrepreneur Elton Pereira, founder of ParetoLogic and a financial backer of Startup Skool, said the program sets kids up to win.
“If we start them early. It gets them to see the world in a different way. Instead of having things come to them, they are proactive and go after things,” Pereira said. “They may start to see the world in a different light and see being an entrepreneur or a small businessperson as an option.
“If we equip them with the right tools and the right mindset they can do a lot of things with it.”
For students in Victoria who are interested in the camp, there are three summer programs in July — Innovation Camp for those between eight and 11, and Design Thinkers and Tech Entrepreneurs camps for those aged 12 to 16.
Cost is $400 and the camp is held at the University of Victoria and Fort Tectoria, the downtown home of the Victoria Innnovation Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.