A grant and partnership is propelling the fourth annual entrepreneur camp from TechGirlz to offer its best-ever lesson plans to more than two dozen middle schoolers.
“These girls will come out and they will have their elevator pitch down,” TechGirlz founder Tracey Welson-Rossman said. “Adults who are just coming into [entrepreneurship] could learn from these girls.”
The five-day camp starting July 13 received a $10,000 grant from StartupPHL for the program, which is also benefitting from a partnership with PSL University, a subsidiary of Philly Startup Leaders, Welson-Rossman said.
“It’s a very intense week but it’s a fun week,” she said. “It’s cursory, they’re getting the real experiences. It’s not just let’s talk about how I get to where I am, but what I really do.”
The twenty-five attendees, who range from 11 to 15 years old, will get to learn from instructors such as Brendan Lowry, marketing director of Curalate; Holly Flannigan, managing director of Gabriel Investments; and Anita Andrews, a vice president at RJMetrics. The girls will enter the camp prepared to clarify their business ideas, and subsequently build those ideas with developers. Then they will hone their marketing plans and pitches for the final “Demo Day,” where they’ll present their ideas to several local business leaders who are acting as judges. The judges include Archna Sahay, the manager of entrepreneurial investment for the City of Philadelphia; Bob Moul, CEO of Artisan Mobile; and Philip Moyer, managing director at Safeguard Scientifics.
One 9-year-old in the camp’s first year invented small art panels for kids to swap, while another pitched a device that could help you find lost items, such as keys. Welson-Rossman said the camp won’t focus too heavily on teaching girls technical skills; instead they’ll spend time on how to communicate ideas to technical leads.
Finance will also take a backseat on the agenda. Welson-Rossman said learning the process and what goes into it are the most important lessons these girls can take away. “Their ideas are grounded in reality,” she said. “It’s fascinating for them to hear the ideas they’re coming up with and the reasoning why. It’s not just the mechanics, but the understanding is the team is what makes a business successful.”
Welson-Rossman accepted 25 of the 50 applicants, leaning less on girls who had just attended because their parents made them.
The camp seeks to address the scarcity of women leaders in the tech community. The Kauffman Foundation reports only 3 percent of tech startups are led by women.
Welson-Rossman also said giving young girls a love for startups can help bridge the widening gender gap in IT labor.