The original goals and objectives of the Inner City Entrepreneur (ICE) Institute’s BizCamp program are to improve the business knowledge and business interest of inner city youth through entrepreneurial training, life skills development, and financial literacy while creating a new crop of successful entrepreneurs for the 21st Century in Shreveport-Bossier City and surrounding areas. As a result of the 2019 J. K. Elrod BizCamp Summer Entrepreneurship Training Program, ICE was again successful at improving the participation, performance, and academic achievement of nearly 50 at-risk students in entrepreneurship skills, business knowledge, communications, collaborations, and financial literacy.
In 2019, ICE proposed to slightly change the business and education model of the BizCamp Program by piloting an initiative to address the public health and economic poverty issue of “urban food deserts”. Food deserts are created in both urban and rural environments when fresh fruits and vegetable markets are not located near distressed and high poverty urban and rural communities. Through sustainable farming techniques such as hydroponic farming, abandoned and empty buildings are being used to provide the facility spaces needed to grow farm products indoors, away from the volatile and uncertain natural elements associated with Mother Nature. Repurposing existing vacant buildings by proposing an urban farming venture promotes community revitalization and business development (through youth business incubation) while addressing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for at-risk youth through hydroponic agricultural and scientific technology—a cutting edge technology. With an interest in entrepreneurship education and financial literacy, STEM could easily evolve into STEEM (science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, and math) education.
Farming has long been a traditional entrepreneurial vehicle by which hard working people have provided food and wealth for their families, clearly within the mission of ICE and BizCamp. Also, ICE hopes to cultivate and develop a community public-private partnership with Cotton Farms, LLC , a for-profit company to help provide education, training, and product distribution, along with other parties such as Caddo Parish Schools, Northwestern State University, Galilee Economic Development Corporation, and the USDA, to name a few. Through this entrepreneurial venture, ICE will work toward financial self-sustainment through contracted product distribution to schools, businesses, and government. This expansion of community services through BizCamp would provide education to a larger adult and youth population.
The “BizCamp-Urban Farming” Program shall provide educational and entrepreneurial life skills training for many more area students and parents. Our instructors document the attendance and academic improvement of students through observations and the use of pre and post testing. Communications and collaborations are noted by panels of businesspeople invited from the community to judge a business plan competition. Also, capitalism in commerce is tested by real life consumers as students market products sold in a real-life marketplace, measured by amounts of product sold and the types of marketing skills learned through the program. The accuracy of our budget depends on the number of students we can train at one time, noting that the adequacy of our budget is limited by the amount of funding we receive.
We would like to have adequate funding to increase teacher’s pay, purchase more teaching materials, and expand the summer program into an in-school year-round program. Also, our dream of creating an adult entrepreneurial training program has been suspended indefinitely due to the lack of funding. Also, a proposed permanent youth marketplace and incubator to nurture and grow youth business ideas has not been possible due to inadequate and inconsistent funding sources.
Due to the success of our BizCamp Program each year, our students, teachers, and volunteers are interviewed and showcased by local media sources. Advertising agencies such as Lamar Advertising provide free billboard and art design work for our Annual JKE BizCamp Community Recognition Banquet. National and international speakers and celebrities (such as GenY Millennial Author Jason Dorsey, Young Black Millionaire Farrah Gray, International School Safety Expert and Author Michael Dorn, and World Record Runner and Author Croix Sather, etc) have participated and promoted our program, using their media resources to expose our program to other places. Due to the student graduation of many successful Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)-BizCamp Alumni over our 20-year existence, they also return to share their business and life success stories with our students and community.
Although it is rather difficult to keep track of over 1000 BizCamp Alumni, we manage to keep in touch with a few of our successful students, many who started in our BizCamp program as early as 12 years old and have gone on to advance their education and even established businesses such as:
- Brylan Leviston-2001 graduate; MBA-Morehouse College, ESY International, clothing designer, International art dealer and professor.
- Joshua Johnson-2001 graduate; received architect scholarship from Southern University and internship with Bryant and Associates through BizCamp, opened his firm in Conroe, Texas.
- Isaac Johnson-2001 graduate, military service, Barber
- Candice Ratcliff-2003 graduate, MBA-Grambling State University, Plush Noir.Com, On-line Plus Size Clothing sales
- Tessa Bryant-2002 graduate, MBA-LaTech, Tessa Design Baskets, etc.
- Damien Chapman-2002 graduate, BS-Southern University- Mechanical Engineering, Owner of Orlandeaux’s Seafood Restaurant
- Brittany Doyle-Davis – 2003 graduate, Britt Arin & Co., Office Designs and Configurations, currently attending Medical School in New Orleans
- Candice Pullen–Farmer -IOS’er, Mobile Phone sales and repair; 2001 Graduate
- Adam McFarland-Music Manager and Promoter (Usher, Beyoncé, and Andre 3000); 2002 Graduate
- Ebonee Norris-Attorney at Law; 2002 Graduate
- Triston Dotson – Mood Swings, Meditation Recordings; 2010 Graduate
- Aleisa Hoey – 2015 graduate, It’s in the Bag, Designer Shoe Bags
- Ryan Burrell – 2016 graduate, Hot Boys Peppers, Homemade Pepper Sauce.
- Jeanette Williams-Ashley – Ashley Boyz Academy, Nursery and Daycare; BizCamp Instructor.