Camp gives students a taste of business

By Loretta Sorensen, Sioux City Journal correspondent

HARTINGTON, Neb. -- Cedar County middle school youth and high school freshmen will get a taste of what it's like to establish a business in a rural community through an Entrepreneurship Investigation (ESI) Camp this week in Hartington.

Students in grades 6-9 are participating in the four-day camp where they'll develop a product and business plan while working out marketing and promotion ideas for their product or service.

The camp is a pilot for a national program and will gather feedback from participants and training assistants. Their comments will be incorporated into the camp curriculum, which will be made available through 4-H this year.

Jane Armstrong, Cedar County Extension educator, said training may be adapted in the future for presentation in schools. Former Congressman Tom Osborne has spearheaded efforts to make the training available to this age group.

"The goals of the camp are to strengthen rural Nebraska economic development, reduce brain drain and possibly give kids some options to help finance their education," Armstrong said. "If these kids want to develop a business in a rural area as they move along in their career, this will help them achieve that. If they just want to do something that helps them work their way through college, what they learn through the camp will give them the basic steps."

The camp was developed through the efforts of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the Nebraska State 4-H Office.

"There are entrepreneurship classes available to high school students," Armstrong said. "But a lot of times those students are taking classes they'll need for college and the number of them who are able to study entrepreneurship is pretty small."

Brittany Sturek of Hartington, who will begin college at the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln this fall, has been active in other rural economic development projects in her community. Part of the camp's objectives, she said, is to involve youth at several levels.

"The camp will help kids identify their strengths and see the possibilities that exist in the areas they're interested in," Sturek said. "Sometimes there are things that kids are good at doing that could lead to an entrepreneurial opportunity. I probably won't start my own business, but I would like to act as a resource for people who do."

The camp will guide participants through an exploration of what an entrepreneur is, help identify the ideas they have, introduce them to the process of developing a product or service and walk them through the financial elements of business.

"It's like public speaking," Armstrong said. "I always encourage 4-H members to get involved as early as they can. The sooner they learn about it and get comfortable with it, the better they'll do. They'll be visiting some businesses here too so they can see firsthand some of the challenges rural business owners face."

 The camp developed through efforts of University of Nebraska--Lincoln Extension 4-H, the UN--L Departments of Textiles, Clothing & Design and Agricultural Economics, HomeTown Competitiveness and the Nebraska Department of Education. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development was not a partner in this project.