This camp means business

High school students test their business and leadership savvy at summer camp.
Thursday, July 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:41 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

About 170 Missouri high school students are learning and working on the different aspects of business during Missouri Business Week on the MU campus. In its 19th year, the event is sponsored by the Missouri Association of Realtors and the Missouri College of Business.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s like school without the teachers,” said Kelsie Van Hoose, a senior at Southern Boone High School in Ashland.

The students are nominated by their school and then apply to attend the program. They are sponsored by businesses from their communities, who give them $450 scholarships to attend Missouri Business Week.

“The group of students this year are very serious and wanting to learn,” said Courtney Conklin, Missouri Association of Realtors spokesperson. “They’re very mature and motivated.”

The students are separated into companies for the duration of the program. They are given a product — this year it’s hats or T-shirts — and learn all the different aspects of selling, marketing and producing their product.

The program is set up with different events each day. Some of the events are interactive lectures and others are hands on. The students are paired with an advisor who is a business leader from around the state.

A popular event for the students is called the “Great Tinkertoy Experiment,” created by the Missouri Business Week’s founder, Richard Mendenhall. The students are separated into their companies and given a list of items that they must build with skill sticks within one hour. The CEOs of each company — all students — are moved to a different station and encouraged to act out a certain personality trait such as aggressive, lazy or democratic. Each company has to work with the CEOs and try to sell as many items as possible.

“It really gives the students a chance to learn how to work with different leaders,” said Norm Benedict, of Norman-Robert Associates. “They are tested and forced to work together under pressure.”

Other events include creating a Web site for their product, learning about ethical decisions, understanding the financial aspect of a company and producing a commercial for their product.

The week will end today with a concluding ceremony, which will showcase the commercials produced by each company. There will be winners for the best commercial and other awards for the week.

“The program was designed to help build future business leaders,” Conklin said. “It is a great way for students working towards a business goal.”

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