ASHEVILLE — Back in the day, youngsters might get an introduction to starting a business by babysitting or setting up a lemonade stand.
But this summer in Western North Carolina, 300 enterprising girls age 11 through 13 can take a big leap forward into real-world entrepreneurship by attending Camp Girl Boss, an initiative where they’ll learn everything from business planning, branding, public speaking, and financials, to identifying target markets, designing a logo, and building a website.
Camp Girl Boss, a weeklong camp held at 10 sites in locations across the region from June to August, is the brainchild of Emily Breedlove, who’s spent the past 15-plus years working across the country in small business support and entrepreneurial development.
A senior fellow at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and director of ScaleUp WNC, Breedlove is a certified trainer in both the internationally acclaimed Ice House Entrepreneurship Program (IHEP) and the long-standing North Carolina entrepreneurial educational program REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning).
She developed the experience-based curriculum for Camp Girl Boss, integrating elements of both IHEP and REAL, along with other national leadership and entrepreneurship models. While Camp Girl Boss introduces students to the steps in starting a business, its long-term positive impact is even greater, said Breedlove.
“Camp Girl Boss provides the framework and encouragement to help pre-teen girls recognize the power of their ideas and the power of their voices,” Breedlove said in a releasse. “Entrepreneurship allows young girls to navigate complex concepts like leadership, financial literacy, facing failure, setting boundaries, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and personal accountability. We introduce some really big ideas and show local girls how to do big things.”
Thom Ruhe, CEO and president of NC IDEA Foundation, which is providing funding for the camp for the second straight year, echoed its benefits: “An entrepreneurial mindset is a life skill that can empower anyone, especially girls, to have lives of great potential. We are pleased to be supporting such a worthy effort.”
The initiative has the support of a number of other organizations as well. Existing under the leadership of the Cherokee-based Sequoyah Fund, a community development financial institution, Camp Girl Boss has also received funding from the United Way of Asheville & Buncombe County and Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont.
Individuals can also provide financial support. A tax-deductible donation of $250 will provide tuition for one camper to attend, said Breedlove, and the need is great.
“We want to make Camp Girl Boss accessible to any middle school girl who wants to learn about being an entrepreneur and can find transportation to attend one of our sites,” said Breedlove. “With most of our applicants requesting a scholarship, our team is committed to finding the funds that will allow all WNC girls to participate. We are grateful to those who have already contributed to our scholarship fund.”
Volunteers and mentors are also needed, and Breedlove especially encourages local entrepreneurs to participate. In 2018 at the inaugural camp at UNC Asheville, some of the region’s most successful women leaders were among the 30 trainers and 36 mentors. This year, with camp expanded to 10 sites and 300 campers, the need is multiplied.
The first camp starts June 10 in Madison County at the A-B Tech Madison Campus; the last begins July 29 in Clay County at the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville. Additional campus in between those dates are in Buncombe, Cleveland, Henderson, Macon, Polk, and Rutherford counties.