BGSU camp leads young women down the path of business

Kayla Garcia, Lima, turns container into a percussion instrument.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Sitting in the classroom in the college of business, 35 high school seniors seemed poised to develop the next big idea. For now they are trying to turn trash into musical instruments.

The students are at Bowling Green State University for the Young Women in Business Leadership Camp being held this week.

Kirk Kern, the director of the entrepreneurship program on campus, is cheerleading their efforts and aspirations.

Entrepreneurs aren’t just men like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, he tells them. Their ranks also include Isabella Weems.

Rebecca Rust writes out her group’s findings during an entrepreneurship exercise.

When Weems was 14, younger than the campers, she decided she wanted to save to buy a car. Her parents told her she’d have to earn the money. She had a choice: She could get a job or start her own business. With her parents backing, Weems started Origami Owl, making personalized pendants. The product took off. She earned more than enough to buy a car. By 2016 the company had sales of $25 million.

Susan Kosakowski, the recruiting manager for the College of Business, said the residential camp has two goals.

The first is “to help young ladies develop their leadership skills so they can take those back to their high schools and then continue them through their college years.”

The other is to make them aware of the opportunities in business for women, she said.

Even though about 55 percent of the undergraduate students at BGSU are female, in the College of Business two-thirds are.

The college, Kosakowski said, would like to see more diversity, not only in gender but ethnicity and culture as well.

“We have so many opportunities we want the women to start taking advantage of them,” she said. “People get very closed minded about what’s involved in business. Every time you walk in a store you’re engaged in business.” The camp aims to show young women how business impacts their lives.

The entrepreneurship program is one draw for women, she said.

Students from any major can minor in entrepreneurship. The program’s signature event The Hatch, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, attracts as many women as men – six of 10 participants this year were women.

The Hatch also draws interest from across the university, from photochemical science to music, including graphic design, apparel merchandising, and early childhood education.

The students attending the camp had a similarly wide range of interests.

Madelyn Krueger, Pettisville, is interested in being a chef, and she envisions opening her own restaurant someday.

Nadia Jeelani, Cincinnati, is interested political science, and her advisor suggested she attend so she can learn about how business works.

Rebecca Rust, Hillsboro, said she plans to double major in anthropology and chemistry, but she feels the skills gained at the camp will help her whatever she decides to pursue.

Those skills included dining etiquette – “what’s proper, and what’s not proper,” Jeelani said – as well as instruction on business dress.

All three said they appreciated the session on negotiating salaries. The time to start addressing the wage gap between women and men is at the beginning, Rust said.

Kosakowski said that having the students stay on campus was important. “They are seniors starting seriously considering college. We’re giving them a taste of what college life is like.”

She hopes some will consider BGSU. Last year 21 students attended, and seven enrolled in the university.

As the entrepreneurship session wound down, the students, who’d been placed in groups of four or five, got to show what they were able to create with the trash they were given and give a sales pitch about it.

After the week is done, they’ll have more of the skills they’ll need to go out into the world and blow their own horns.

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