CGS Goes to Camp

I have a confession to make: I love everything camp. I spent eleven years at one, and so I’m no stranger to the “camp tie”: i.e., everyone wins. There’s nothing worse than being the camper who captures the flag, only to be told that everyone, equally, is a winner. At a camp that took place recently, a small group of youth got to compete to best their peers. The lessons learned, however, may have let everyone in on the winner’s circle.

Two weeks ago, CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development) held an Entrepreneurship Summer Camp for kids in grades 4-7 at the New Dawn Center for Social Innovation in Sydney, Cape Breton. It was one of five such camps that took place across the province, and two of our CGS teammates, Chloe Donatelli and Rebecca Dunphy, had the pleasure of participating as business-pitch judges and guest speakers. I had a chance to sit down with them this week to chat about their experiences.

The camp, which ran from July 31st to August 4th, provided opportunities for the dozen or so youth to learn the basics of business skills with a hint of social enterprise and social innovation mixed in. Along with the program activities, there featured a number of guest speakers, of which Rebecca was one. She introduced the campers to the idea of business with a social purpose. In a building like the Centre for Social Innovation, these youth would have been constantly reminded that entrepreneurship doesn’t just mean business--it means coming up with a creative solution to whatever challenges their community is facing.

During the week’s programming, the campers had been split into four teams, with each being given the task of working together to come up with a small-business idea. They would eventually present to the panel of judges, after running their business for an afternoon at the Sydney Mall. For many of them, this would be their first time sharing such ideas (or putting them into action), and the kicker was that their pitches were being taken seriously. After a final evaluation including the success of the sales day, a winner would have to be declared.

Three of the four groups decided on treats or bake sales as their one-day business. What better way to attract shoppers in a well-trafficked mall? One youngster commented, upon being prompted by a judge during the pitch, that their marketing strategy consisted entirely of the wafting aroma of buttered popcorn.

However, one young woman broke away from baked goods and decided to source transferable design templates from Michaels, with which she decorated pillowcases, t-shirts, bags and rocks, creating a unique and eye-catching product. She ended up making a profit, which, considering her budget and a single day of sales, could only be described as impressive. Two of the bake sales also ended up making a profit--the third one unfortunately spending a little too much on cake stands to end up in the black (Oops, “fail fast” as they say). One successful baking group finished their fiscal day by choosing to allocate 10% of profits to the IWK Foundation, in Halifax.

Because of their consideration and investment into a social cause, it was this last group that pulled ahead in the judges’ estimation.

If you happened to ask them, some of the participants may tell you that they did not win, but I have no doubt that all of the campers took away something valuable from their week at the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation. They learned a solid few things about entrepreneurship: success, loss, and the courage it takes to put yourself out there. But perhaps most importantly, “the campers,” Chloe reflected, “may have even learned that sometimes the winners in business are those who are willing to consider people and the planet along with profit.”

And that is always a thought worth sharing.


Written by: Sam Krueger

Sam Krueger is from Toronto and lives and writes in Halifax. He has spent the summer conducting research at Common Good Solutions HQ for the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, and is excited to bring a voice to the office, its people, and Nova Scotia’s social enterprise community.