Chandler teenager Teresa Canizales used to dream about opening a bed and breakfast with her cousin in the mountains.
She never believed she could start her own business, but all that changed last summer when she went to Camp CEO, a weeklong resident camp with outdoor activities and business workshops by professional women and business owners.
“The people were wonderful and it was just an amazing experience,” Canizales said. “If they can do it, we can obviously do it.”
In its eighth year, Camp CEO (Creating Economic Opportunity) is designed to inspire and prepare young women for future leadership. It was the brainchild of the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Girl Scouts of Arizona Cactus Pine Council.
The camp curriculum was designed by women business owners in the Valley, and teaches young women the basics of business ownership, including marketing, finances, business development and team building, said Sharon Maloley, Camp CEO's chair and a small-business owner. She lives in Scottsdale.
“What we're doing is really trying to catapult these girls into thinking for themselves that you don't just graduate from high school and go to college, and assume you're going to go to work for somebody as always,” Maloley said. “It's an incredible program for these girls, and when they leave, they walk away with a gift that so few people get throughout their early years of life.”
Participants hear how women business owners started out, the challenges they faced and how they survived and succeeded. The camp is open to any young woman in the Valley who is either in high school or starting high school this fall. There are scholarships available and no one has ever been denied because of finances, Maloley said.
“All of the programs are defined and given to these girls in an attempt to, at the very end of the week, put together a company,” she said.
Participants are divided into groups, and each group is given a product and charged with building a company around that product, Maloley said.
The camp has grown through the years and had 32 participants last year, Maloley said.
“I am a business owner and have been a business owner for 12 years, and I can tell you at my old age if I'd only had this opportunity of being able to see what it looked like, what was expected, not only just from owning the business, but more importantly being part of a work force, of understanding the entire spectrum of a company,” she said. “Gosh, wouldn't it have been nice to have all of that information before leaping into the black hole, if you will.”
Canizales will return to camp this month and said looks forward to meeting business owners and finding out how they started their companies.