Northwood offers LAB summer camp to future entrepreneurs

Leadership, team building, target marketing, soft skills, social media,  international business, and management are some of the subjects that will be presented in a summer camp offered by Northwood University. The LAB (Learn About Business) Camp is open to 6th through 11th grade students. It will be held Sunday, June 19 through Friday, June 24.

Students can enroll to stay on campus as residents for the week or they can attend as commuters. There is also an option to attend virtually, but Jim Hop, a faculty participant says, “Last year, we had a small number of virtual attendees but being at the camp is where they have the most value.”
Jim Hop, entrepreneurship department chair, presents a certificate to a camper.
Hop is an associate professor and the department chair for entrepreneurship and for franchising management. He’s been at Northwood for 13 years. He’s had a career in business starting with a family turkey farm on Michigan’s west side, a plastic thermal forming company in the Gladwin/Beaverton area, and Comerica Bank. He’s also a part-owner of the two Biggby Coffee locations in Midland, which are primarily owned by a Northwood alum. Hop says, “At Northwood, we love for our professors to have practical business experience.”

The camp is coordinated by John Gustincic, the director of the Alden. B. Dow Center for Creativity and Entrepreneurship, along with several Northwood students. Hop says, “This camp doesn’t happen without them.”   Jordan Barker and Kate Frank, a Dow High grad, were the Northwood student leaders last year.
 The LAB camp takes field trips to local businesses.
The camp first started in 2014 and has been held every year except 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 92 students attended in 2021.  Campers primarily come from Michigan and the Midwest  but students have come from as far away as California and Texas, and also Canada.

The campers are put into five-person teams. The camp runs concurrently for middle school and high school age teams. Each team comes up with an idea for a business and learns to use the Business Model Canvas.  Hop says, “It’s a really intuitive way of looking at business...we teach them the nine building blocks for a business.” On Wednesday and again on the final day, Friday, each team makes a “Shark Tank” style presentation. “Shark Tank” is a television program where entrepreneurs make a presentation to a group of investors with the goal of having the “sharks” invest in their business. The students are asked to dress “business professional” when they make their pitch.

Their parents and family members are invited to attend a graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon at Riepma Arena where awards are presented in several categories .Hop says, “It’s a long week, a tiring week, but really, a fun week. We do assessments. We always get great feedback. The students have fun.” He adds, “It’s a great opportunity to see what college is going to be like. They live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria.”

Awards are presented on the final day of the LAB camp.The cost for a student who stays on campus for the week is $500 for first timers, $400 for a commuter, and $300 for a virtual attendee.  Returning students have lower fees. There are scholarships available. Hop says, if a student in need is interested, “We’re going to find a way to have them come to camp.” Several donors financially support the camp.

For more information and to apply,  go to the LAB camp page on Northwood’s website. The page features a promotional video that was produced by campers and Northwood students. The application deadline is May 31. Space is limited.

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Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."