At a time when most teens are trying to fit in with peers, Joerod Collier started his own business, Surreal Styles, designing unique sneakers when he was 15.
"I knew that I liked cool sneakers. I liked to be different, and my friends were always requesting that I design things for them," Collier said. "That's when I realized that Surreal Styles could be a lucrative business," said Collier, now 24.
Expanding his business seemed like a pipe-dream until one of his teachers recommended a summer camp for young entrepreneurs. Based in Tampa, Fla., the camp, called Forward Thinking Initiatives' Teen Business and Innovation Camp, taught him business skills such as how to market his product and file the right paperwork.
Forget campfires and lake swimming. Entrepreneur camps are gaining popularity as more parents fork over hundreds of dollars in hopes junior will learn the skills to become the next Mark Zuckerberg with a hot new start-up.
The Florida day-camp, founded in 2004, is one of the more affordable entrepreneur camps at $250 for a five- day session. Camp prices can reach four figures. No matter the cost, the common goal is training well-prepared young men and women for a more competitive workforce—recession or no recession.
The unemployment rate for young people between the ages of 16 and 24 is 17.1 percent, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2013. The rate has declined since the peak average unemployment rate of 19.6 percent in April 2010.
The Florida camp began as a for-profit organization but transitioned to non-profit status during the economic downturn in 2010, when enrollment declined.
"As the economy went down, the irony was that parents were not willing to pay to have their kids learn how to be more self-reliant. … They would rather have their kids bag at the supermarket and come home with five bucks in their pocket immediately," said Debra Campbell, president and executive director of the Florida Forward Thinking Initiatives camp, which includes support from Verizon.
Campbell said the camp's goal is to show kids they can have big dreams and follow their passions, if they work hard. As a non-profit organization, she receives much of her funding from grants, yet she still struggles to keep her program available to all hopeful young entrepreneurs.