Memphis is the first stop for entrepreneurship camp for girls

A free camp at the University of Memphis instructed girls in how to launch their own businesses.

Aniyah Harmon wants to open her own dance studio. Although she’s just 11 years old, she’s already gained more knowledge about launching a business than most adults.

She’s one of a cohort of middle school-age girls participating in an entrepreneurship summer camp for girls in underserved communities. She and other participants spent June 12 to June 16 at the University of Memphis learning key skills to one day launch their own businesses.

“I knew this camp could help me better myself and grow my business and I’m learning things I didn’t know,” Aniyah said.

Memphis is the first stop on this traveling summer camp, hosted by Envision Lead Grow, a nonprofit based in Norfolk, Virginia that teaches girls and women the critical skills and knowledge they need to achieve their dreams of owning their own businesses.

The college-aged counselors of Envision Lead Grow, a traveling summer camp that instructs middle-school girls in launching their own businesses.

Angela Reddix, a successful entrepreneur who owns a health care consulting firm in Norfolk, is founder of Envision Lead Grow. She chose Memphis as one the camp’s seven cities because of its high poverty rate.

“I know the value of entrepreneurship, and I’m passionate about helping individuals find their passion and connecting that to how they can make a living for themselves,” said Reddix, who’s working on her doctorate degree in entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. The camp is a project of her dissertation

“They may be in environments where they don’t have the luxury of the 10,000 hours it takes to become and expert,” said Reddix of the accessibility of entrepreneurship. “When given the opportunity in a compressed amount of time, girls can learn the deliberate practice on entrepreneurship.”

Reddix is hands-on with the curriculum, and she personally called each parent who registered their girl for the camp.
Angela Reddix, founder of Envision Lead Grow.“As a mother, it would be important for me to understand the spirit of the camp,” she said. “You want mothers who want the best for their girls, who are energized about entrepreneurship, and I see that reflected in their daughters.”

Aniyah’s mother, Jasmine Harmon, said she was energized to enrolled her daughter in the camp after doing some research.

“We love everything they stood for, from the entrepreneurship to leadership to growing and envisioning your future,” she said. “All of that really rang true to who we are and who my daughter is going to be. She’s always talked about owing her own dance studio. She’s learning a lot about entrepreneurship and about herself. You have to know yourself when you start a business.”

This summer, the camp will travel to six other cities including Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and the Virginia cities of Richmond and Norfolk.

The camp is free for participants, whose tuition is paid for by individual and corporate sponsors. Envision Lead Grow has partnered with local universities, businesses and women professionals in each city to create a solid network of support for the girls.

Local business owners who presented to the girls in Memphis include Dana James Mwangi of graphic design firm Cheers Creative; Sheleagh Harris of Living Grace, a nonprofit that works to end youth homelessness; and Kayla Rodrigues Graff, co-founder of SweetBio, a dental healthcare startup.

Dana James Mwangi, CEO of Cheers Creative, speaks to a group at the University of Memphis about being a creative entrepreneur.

The camp’s counselors are all rising seniors at various universities who have donated their summer to traveling across the country to serve as mentors and role models for the budding tween entrepreneurs.

“I wanted to do something this summer that will inspire me later but will ultimately inspire them,” said Sateena Turner, a communications major at the University of North Carolina, who is teaching the girls about branding, social media and business culture.  

“It’s been awe-inspiring. This isn’t a program that happens everywhere and I wanted to seize the opportunity to be a part of this,” she added. “Women and girls uplifting each other is something I live for.”

The Envision Lead Grow Camp culminates in a pitch competition where one girl will receive $500 in seed money for her venture. The girls will continue to receive guidance through Memphis-based business women who will continue to help them develop their business models, and they’ll have access to Envision Lead Grow’s online seminars and newsletters.

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Read more articles by Aisling Maki.

Aisling Maki is a writer and editor with awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America. Her work has appeared in publications in more than 20 countries and she has written locally for more than a dozen publications, including The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Flyer and Memphis Parent Magazine. She previously worked as a digital producer and weekend reporter for Action News 5, Memphis correspondent for the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and staff reporter for Memphis Daily News.