"Summer camp"...for entrepreneursby Jeff Horwich, Minnesota Public Radio
As June comes to a close, we enter the season of camp -- a time for kids to have fun, make new friends, and maybe learn some new skills. A group of adults gathering at a summer camp in Northfield this weekend has similar plans, though their ultimate aim is a little different -- and there's no canoeing involved. Camp Jumpstart is a three-day "summer camp" for entrepreneurs.
Northfield, Minn. — For entrepreneurs and other business people, there are seminars and workshops out there by the hundreds, usually involving generic hotel ballrooms and large Powerpoint presentations. At very few will participants gather in a circle and be asked to kick a beach ball around, which is how Camp Jumpstart begins.
Rosemary Senjem, a White Bear Lake consultant who co-founded Camp Jumpstart three years ago, moves to the middle of the circle. She tells the 11 campers to spread their arms and legs as wide as they can, and they all start waddling around the conference room of Northfield's historic Archer House hotel.
"Just start exploring, 'How much space can I take up?'" she says. "As an entrepreneur, that's really important. Start imagining that you take up space. As an employee, you're asked to be invisible sometimes -- to be small. You really need to be big."
The emphasis on movement might put off many straight-laced business types, but Senjem believes one important tool for an entrepreneur is learning to read signals from the body. Don't have a good feeling in your gut about the banker you're seeing for a loan? Go find someone you connect with, she says.
Over three days, campers will also talk finance, marketing, and other nitty-gritty aspects of running a business. But movement and fun are important elements of this curriculum.
This year the alternative approach of Camp Jumpstart has attracted, among others, an interior designer, a statistician, a psychologist, a jewelry maker, and a woman who wants to open a bed and breakfast. They hope the $600 registration fee will leave them better equipped to make a living doing work they love.
The only returning camper is Nancy Plagman, who lives near Des Moines. When she attended the camp in its first year, 2004, she had just left a nursing job of 30 years to start up as a massage therapist.
"Why I'm here now is to explore some new profit centers, new ideas," she says. "I'm looking at expanding, moving into different areas, or doing something more creative."
The camp also drew Diane Watson, a part-time photographer from Atlanta. Watson works 60-plus hour weeks for a major hotel chain, but intends to launch five side businesses by the time she retires. She's already moving on a line of greeting cards, as well as housewarming cards for the real estate industry.
A conversation in the first moments of camp has already given her another photography business idea -- making housecalls to photograph children.
It "occurred to me (while) we were talking about being a grandmother," Watson says. "I'm not a mother or a grandmother, but I said, 'Someone would want me for a grandmother because I'd get great pictures of those kids.'"
One of Camp Jumpstart's attractions is the other co-founder, Barbara Winter. Winter is a frequent speaker, and author of books like "Making a Living Without a Job."
On the opening morning, she whips through a list of businesses that began with a passion and the owners found a way to make money at it: The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's, Cirque de Soleil. Her basic message for campers is that by working for yourself, you can and should do what you love.
"Part of my mission is to help people who think of themselves as artists develop the entrepreneurial side of themselves, and people who think of themselves as entrepreneurs to develop the creative, artistic side of themselves," Winter tells the group.
Early on day one, the group swarms a table in the conference room filled with stickers, markers, and colored Post-It® notes. They're each decorating a take-out food container to make what organizer Rosemary Senjem calls a "personal option bank" -- someplace to store business ideas that occur to them during camp.
"Throughout the weekend people will get ideas of, 'Oh, I could do this,' or 'Maybe someday I'll incorporate that into my business,'" she says. "It's a place to store that idea so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of notes from the weekend."
A little bit of arts-and-crafts time?
"Yes! We have several arts-and-crafts portions. This is the first one."
Saturday, campers venture out on what Senjem calls an entrepreneurial "treasure hunt" in downtown Northfield. Senjem calls Northfield a "wonderful lab" for the camp because of the many independent businesses.
Camp Jumpstart lasts only through the weekend -- not long enough for home-ickness to set in, but long enough, campers hope, to give their business plans a boost.
- All Things Considered, 06/30/2006, 5:53 p.m.