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Is it ever too early to learn how to be your own boss? Not in this day and age. The power of entrepreneurship has taken center stage in the business world, and girls today can look to women like Tory Burch and Lauren Bush as role models. But most schools haven’t added “Entrepreneurship 101” to the curriculum just yet, so where can girls build those entrepreneurial skills?
Forget the lemonade stand— enter a program called Bizzy Girls, which teaches girls how to take an idea and make it a reality (be it a fashion line or a non-profit). This innovative program empowers teens and tweens through a unique combination of experiential camps, entrepreneurial products and books. Based in Southern California (but spreading), BizzyGirls provides programs for girls ages 7 through 14. Camps involve learning entrepreneurship skills and culminate in creating a product line, writing a business plan and marketing a product.
Older girls can become more tech-savvy through their “Tech for Teens” camp, while younger girls can tap into their inner entrepreneur through founder Deborah Kanafani’s book, Kate Kate and the BizzyGirls. And then there’s the Teen Fair, where budding entrepreneurial queens can display their products, meet other successful teen business-owners and become inspired to make their dreams a (marketable) reality.
Intrigued? Us too. So we caught up with BizzyGirls founder and President, Deborah Kanafani, to learn more about what makes this program so unique.
What draws girls to the BizzyGirls program/camps/products? How do they find you and what’s their typical motivation?
Deborah: There are many very young girls that want to start their own businesses. I think some just have an entrepreneurial spirit and have not known how to use it. Girls tell us they want to have their own money so they can have independence and not always have to ask their parents for things. Other girls like the fashion or product creation aspect but after having the experience of having a business, they experience self-confidence along with skills that make them want to continue. Moms often read about the camp and then show the website to their daughters, who eagerly would like to attend.
What are some of the most interesting projects (and products) have come out of the BizzyGirls experience?
Deborah: We are slowly introducing technology and digital know-how into the program. We have partnered with whyville.net and they will be teaching workshops on how to create online games. We will also be offering digital music mixing this year. In the past, though, we have focused on handmade items and girls love fashion. One girl made backpacks for dogs, someone made matching shirts for dogs and their owners, and some other girls made a line of organic bubble bath. We even had a garden blogger who sold potted plants with the pots hand painted with excerpts from her blog.
What do you notice about the girls as they progress through the camps and conduct their final pop-up shops? Do you see a difference in them from start to finish?
Deborah: Absolutely. First, we are surprised how much thought these girls have given to having a business—[before] it was sort of this secret world or fantasy that they were embarrassed to share and now they have a place to share it and make it come true. This is a validation they receive which gives them confidence because they are taken seriously and supported. They develop skills about math, cost profit, how to take inventory and do pricing, but they also learn how to think things through, so I see how they approach each challenge and learn how to problem solve and make decisions. They have the ability to retain a large amount of information in a short time.
Why does BizzyGirls believe entrepreneurial skills are important? What’s the benefit for girls, even if they don’t plan to start their own business someday?
Deborah: The fact that you can take an idea and bring it to fruition is a very important experience to carry with you. You will always know that you can do this in your future. Even if you don’t start your career as an entrepreneur, it teaches you how to approach a project, to create a plan, overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. Financial literacy unfortunately is not taught in schools. This is a huge disadvantage and limits our choices.
What’s the most satisfying thing about seeing girls attend the camps?
Deborah: To see how seriously they take the program and how proud they are and excited when they finish the program. Moms tell me all the time the girls continue their businesses after camp. We see them selling their products on Instagram and that makes me very happy.
What makes BizzyGirls unique as an entrepreneurial education program?
Deborah: Well, we are pioneers; there are no other programs like ours. We listened to the girls and found out what today’s tweens wanted. We had experts in creative curriculum work with us to test methods and did focus groups all winter. We are experiential; everything they learn they are able to apply to their own business. Also, we felt an essential part of this was to create a community of girls. We are launching our BizzyGirlsTV (online) where girls can share projects, get ideas and hear teen CEOS and chat with each other. We also developed “Bizzy Girls” characters with stories that are fun; it’s the comical adventures of a group of friends that have their own businesses.
Is BizzyGirls only for girls in the Southern California area right now?
Deborah: We are doing classes in New Jersey and Connecticut this year. Next summer with be a large expansion. We are working with local elementary school teachers and have 140 camps planned mostly on the east and west coast and Washington DC metro area. We will continue a steady growth. Both Westfield Malls and Macerich Malls have actually given us prime retail space that is available so girls can go to camp at the mall. We will be also putting on a large event with Radio Disney in September where girls can sell their products, showcase their companies, meet inspirational girls—plus, we also have several teen Youtube starts to speak about how they built their channels.
Who have you brought in to teach and mentor the girls?
Deborah: We have had a variety of speakers that were inspirational. One of the things that the girls really enjoy when we are at the mall camps is to go to the Body Shop. They have someone speak to the girls about free trade, not testing on animals and about social entrepreneurship. It’s part of the activities we do to understand a company’s brand.
Want to know more? Check out this video that features these very “Bizzy” girls in action.