After running across an online video about aquaponics, Jackson County 4-H member Michael Claycamp worked with his father to build a small greenhouse and fish tank in his backyard. He now raises up to 150 fish, and their waste provides nutrients for growing lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which in turn purify water for the fish. Now Claycamp wants to make his passion a career.
The latest step toward that goal was the three-day Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy at Purdue University, where Claycamp met and collaborated with fellow participant Ludvin Cambara. Their business idea, Aquapon, is designed to bring fresh, affordable vegetables and fish to Indiana residents. Together, they and 17 other Indiana youth networked with entrepreneurs, gained access to industry data, developed business plans, and learned how to pitch their ideas to investors.
“We met with entrepreneurs we can network with. That’s crucial,” says Cambara, a senior at Frankfort High School. “We’ve gotten a lot of advice. It’s a great program.”
Claycamp, a sophomore at Seymour High School, says the academy also gave him the confidence to believe he can build a business himself.
“I learned a lot about business and how to pitch and communicate,” Claycamp says. “It’s something I’ll always remember.”
He and Cambara are working to hone their final Aquapon pitch for a contest at the 2017 Indiana 4-H Youth Congress.
The program also stands to improve Indiana’s small business capacity by encouraging entrepreneurship and showing young students resources are available for them around the state. After the program, 92 percent of participants said they know what it takes to start a business, and 80% would like to do so.
“Just the awareness of entrepreneurship as a potential career for young people is excellent,” says Susan Davis, regional director of the Indiana Small Business Development Center. “When they have an opportunity like they did through 4-H, that’s an eye-opener for some of these young people.”
The opportunities presented by the academy and the idea of entrepreneurship are especially important to Cambara, who immigrated to the U.S. with his mother and uncle from his native Guatemala six years ago when he was 11 years old.
“Being an entrepreneur means opportunity. That’s why you see many immigrants owning businesses. We see the U.S. as being about opportunity,” Cambara says. “The Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy showed me that here in America, as long as you’re determined and work on your craft, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
A key component to the success of Indiana’s economy and its communities is fostering strong small businesses that start – and can stay – here at home.
Sponsored by Purdue Extension and its Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program, the Purdue Entrepreneurship Academy inspires high school students to think strategically, creatively, and proactively about ways to start their own businesses in their own communities and shapes concepts of entrepreneurship.
Held on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, the weeklong Entrepreneurship Academy lets high school students interact with business leaders and entrepreneurship experts from Purdue and across Indiana.
It combines classroom instruction, one-on-one mentorship, and networking – with attendees forming teams to create business models for actual products, plan business pitches, and identify customer bases. Teams build communication, collaboration, and presentation skills before putting their plans before a panel of expert judges.
100%: Believe they have the necessary skills to start their own business
92%: Understand what it takes to start their own business
92%: Understand the barriers and risk involved in building a successful business
80%: Would like to start their own business someday
Plans are in place to make the Purdue Entrepreneurship Academy an annual event – to reach more students in more places and to enhance an understanding of entrepreneurship that goes beyond merely starting businesses into solving problems and creating business models that better Indiana communities.