By Maureen Werther
Paul Smith’s College will play host this summer to a group of budding entrepreneurs, as an innovative camp comes to the area. Camp Start-Up is dedicated to fostering financial literacy across race, class, and gender. Their programs and materials are as relevant to those who struggle to make ends meet as to those who are teaching their kids to shepherd wealth.
Created in the 1990’s by co-founders Melinda Little and Joline Godfrey and based out of Santa Barbara, Camp Start-Up was developed from their parent organization, Independent Means, Inc. Godfrey has been a pioneer in financial education for children and parents, and Melinda Little, a resident of Saranac Lake, is the Director of Camps.
This isn’t the first time that Camp Start-Up has been held in our region. Past camps have been held at Cornell and Skidmore College, and another session will meet in Wilbraham MA in July. Ms. Little, who has been tele-commuting between Saranac Lake and Santa Barbara for the past several years, hopes that the camp at Paul Smith’s will foster enough enthusiasm to bring it back again next year.
“I’d really like to see our camp continue to be held here at Paul Smith’s College,” says Little. “There are so many kids who want to stay in this region and start a business – or take over a family business – and they need the types of skills that our camp offers them.” Campers will learn entrepreneurial skills and how to apply them to create local, sustainable businesses in the heart of the Adirondacks, as well as elsewhere.
Campers will arrive at Paul Smith’s College on June 24th and be divided up into teams. Each team will have its own counselor and, together, they will come up with an idea for a business that appeals to the entire team. That in itself could be a challenge, and will be just the first of many, as they progress through the steps of developing their business plan to be presented on the final night of the camp, June 30th.
In addition to learning entrepreneurial and business skills such as sales and marketing, operations, presentation and business etiquette, and budgeting and finance, campers will also get a firsthand behind the scenes look into local businesses like Sunfeather Natural Soap Company. Campers will meet the owner, tour her production facility, and hear how the company is part of the “slow” movement that encourages tradition, and a hands-on approach to production. Campers will also visit the Wild Center, a science-based natural history museum located in Tupper Lake, and WSLP FM radio station in Lake Placid.
But Little knows that all work and no play make for unhappy campers. In addition to the field trips and classroom work, campers will also have an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Adirondacks by taking part in a paddling adventure put together by one of the local canoe and kayaking guide services.
Camp enrollment is limited to 20 attendees (14 to 18 year-olds) in order to provide the best experience for the kids. Tuition is $1,680 for the week and is all-inclusive. For those who do not want to sleep over, the tuition is $1,000. But Little stresses that the over-night program offers the most complete camp experience and she strongly recommends it. There is also a discount if you want to bring along a sibling or a friend. The second registrant pays $1200. And, there are some full and partial scholarships available, based on need and level of demonstrated interest in the entrepreneurial camping experience. Openings are still available for the June 24th-June 30th.