The first morning of camp, our school room roared with young girl giggles and nervous chatter. The bare walls and concrete floors lent itself well to the echoes. We began with introductions and our objectives. We came to host a 5 day camp where these girls could come and dream. They could leave their stress outside the classroom door and just be kids for a while. We wanted to have fun but what we really came to do was let these girls know they are not alone in this world. They have gifts to share and hopes to explore. SEED’s young women’s entrepreneur camp is designed to facilitate this hope and instill lasting skills that translate outside of the classroom.
We had tables set up with items to make skincare products. There was a jewelry station and a bag of donated clothes they girls could repurpose to make beautiful creations like handbags and dresses. This was our first camp and it was my first time in South Africa. We had a plan but like any great vision, there is always room for the unknown. Starting each day with yoga and meditation allowed us all to start the day with fresh minds and open hearts. So that is where we began. Skye and I shared our vision of camp and our vision of life for these girls, straight from our hearts.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur and more specifically what does it mean to these girls, in Orange Farm? We start with an idea and we foster that creativity. We set out with vision boards to put a tangible framework to their ideas. Through this exercise, the girls started to understand the value of partnerships and importance of building relationships in the context of starting a business. They decided to form business partnerships and collaborate on what kind of business they wanted to start. Watching these girls cut out magazine pictures and words to describe their goals brought me back to that pivotal time in my life where I started to understand my power as a young woman developing my identity. I remember being 13 or 14, imagining what I wanted to be in this world. It was all possible. I could be anything because I grew up in a community where I had the safety and access to dream. But I was not in Orange Farm. I was in a nice affluent community in Northern California going to a private school where opportunity was abundant. Yet, I refused to see any difference just because these girls were born into another part of the world with different opportunities. I wanted to give them tools that I was afforded so that they could realize their potential. Even further, I wanted them to act on that potential.
We put together business plans and began to work through the importance of organization skills, critical thinking, and relationship building through supplier and community partnerships. I lead them through a goal setting exercise and it was one of the most powerful moments for me. I sat on top of a desk towards the front of the room and I asked the girls to be quiet. How do you know where you are going if you have not looked at where you came from? How do you know what success looks like if you have not defined your criteria? They put pen to paper and began to list their goals within the categories of (Insert info from SA notes). The room filled with silence I didn’t know was possible with 15 teenage girls. But the intensity was palpable. They began to connect in that moment with their own power. They began to see themselves in a wider context. Eyes lit up imagining all they could achieve in this life. I let the silence fill up the space and then asked the girls to share a few of their goals. (Insert example from SA notes) We do not operate alone in this world. We need family, friends, community to make life rich.
At the end of the week, the girls hosted a market day where the public came to learn about the girls’ businesses and buy their wares. A new identity had been explored and created throughout the week. These young women had now become entrepreneurs.