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Student Entrepreneurs Compete For Cash Prizes In Summer School Bizcamp

Some Irving high school students are sweating through summer school, but not because they need better grades. They’re in entrepreneur camp, and at the end of the week, campers will compete for cash prizes that could help launch a business


  “If you can dream it, you can do it. That’s a quote that I’ve told to my kids over and over and over again.”

Sandy Hale loves passing that Walt Disney quote along to budding entrepreneurs. In this case, the Fidelity Investments consultant is offering advice to a dozen and half mostly MacArthur High students enrolled in bizcamp.

“If they have a great product, that’s a very important part of the puzzle,” says Hale. “But then they have to deliver a great customer experience time and time again.”

Students here, including 15 year-old LamisaAbedin and her two teammates certainly have ideas, like their ‘business bib,’ designed to look better than a square paper smock stuck under your chin.  

“That way your outfit isn’t ruined, that $300 shirt you’re wearing,” says Abedin. “And your clothes are protected, and it makes you classy, comfortable and confident at the same time.”

Her team may have the slogan, but Abedin doesn’t have a “biz bib” design yet.  Coming up with one is part of this bizcamp training, says Karen Ezell. She’s a Program Director with the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship, The 25 year-old organization that helps run this summer school, which is in Texas and for the first time.   

“I think most of our students have a profound interest in starting something in the future but really don’t know how to go about it,” says Ezell. “They’re  interested in business but may not have actually thought about what’s my opportunity?” 

Ezell says this intensive two-week camp teaches business basics like research, pricing, and profit. Adelia Jones. who heads MacArthur High’s Career and Technology Department, says entrepreneurs are also different.

“A lot of those students think outside the box, don’t fit the rules the way a business would. So it’s an interesting marriage between a very creative, think-outside-the-box kind of student with a program that allows them to be as creative as they want to be,” says Jones.

And they’ve created business ideas like a custom car service to get students home from after-school activities when parents can’t. Or an electronic student ID card that can track you anywhere, like a GPS-enabled smart phone. Sister and brother Alisha and DanyialHamid say their product will enhance academic compliance and school security.   

“We have students in our class that will be present for a lecture,” says Alisha Hamid. “And when it’s time to turn the assignment in they’ll say ‘I’m sorry I was absent.’ This way we can know who was there, when they were,  and why didn’t they turn it in?”

Alisha’s brother Daniyal adds In offices they have this. As soon as you get to work, you pop in your card and it tells what time you clocked in. So it’s already in places, just not in school.”

That may not exactly be true, and there might be other worries like unleashing “big brother.” But researching the idea is also part of bizcamp.

This Friday, nine student teams will pitch their plans to a panel of education and private-sector judges. They’ll compete for product seed money where the top prize is $750 and a shot at next Spring’s Dallas regional competition. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.