Giving teens the freedom to solve problems can be transformational, said Rebecca Dove.
“It is believed that this generation will be more entrepreneurial-minded and want to have more freedom in their careers,” said Dove, co-founder of Project United Knowledge, which last week debuted its first Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. “So we’re just trying to rip out a better path to lead to a better business opportunity or just helping their dreams transform to whatever they want to be.”
The four-day exploration of the startup world targeted 14- to 17-year-olds, culminating with final pitches presented to the students’ families, said Quest Moffat, Project UK co-founder. The organization helps entrepreneurs — especially those in underestimated communities — build businesses, according to its website.
Four students participated in last week’s inaugural, Lean Canvas-styled bootcamp, he said, noting the process began with pinpointing solutions to problems in their daily lives, and ran through expense and cost analyses, as well as investment costs for their products.
Solutions inspired by the camp ranged from magnetic, removable temple pieces for eyeglasses to an app that would help vegans or other diners with dietary restrictions, like food allergies, identify nearby menu items fitting their needs.
The ideas were born from challenges specifically facing their would-be founders: a boy who struggles to cut his own hair with the temple-pieces of his glasses in the way, and a vegan teen who finds little information about Kansas City’s specialty foods scene.
“Whether they wanted to create the G-Switch (eyeglasses) idea, or they want to create the next app, they’ve all recognized a common problem,” said Moffat. “They’ve all gone through how to ask those questions, and so I believe that this will be able to help them progress in school since most of them are freshmen and sophomores, and this is going to give them a lot of public speaking and critical thinking.”
A few of the concepts fleshed out by the students could actually be workable startup ideas — even potentially products that could be launched within the next year with the right focus, Dove and Moffat said.
The Project UK founders brought in Kansas City entrepreneurs and speakers — from such organizations as Exhale KC Boutique Fitness, Segura Marketing, MusicSpoke and Barkley — to help guide the students in the process, as well as lead discussions in social media marketing, storytelling, and customer validation.
“They have been introduced to so many new concepts,” Moffat said. “Just to see them hear something new and then immediately start asking questions, that whole curious mindset piece … I think it’s very important that they see real entrepreneurs, and they get to interact with them on a daily basis, and then they get to do their own ideas.”
Some of the students requested to extend the days of the bootcamp, said Moffat, who added that the students have gained from working in groups and learning to respect everyone’s ideas, especially in the workspace donated by Plexpod for the week.
“It’s cool to watch their minds twist and turn and offer up suggestions to each other. I think having a cool environment like this that’s nice and safe that encourages it, has really been beneficial to them,” said Moffat.
The team has seen some tremendous growth in the short time together, said Moffat, who noted the confidence shown in each student with their pitches by the end of the session.
Students participating in the bootcamp were invited to return for a July session, which is expected to add new components to their ideas, work out financial aspects and promote their products, said Moffat.
Additional students are being sought for the next bootcamp, Dove added. The program is envisioned as a 10-person cohort, she said.