Published on: Thursday, September 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Getting the job done

By Rick Henry

For many Takoma Park students summer is a time for camps, pools, video games and various forms of recreation, a break from the rigors and responsibilities of school work.

However, for others, summer is the time for a different kind of work, more rigorous and with more responsibilities than they face at school. And with arguably more lessons learned.

Take Liza Curcio, 18. The rising sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park, spent her summer working for College Works Painting, an organization that gives undergraduate students an opportunity to build a competitive resume and gain marketable skills by teaching them how to manage their very own painting business.

Thus her summer was spent cultivating new clients for painting jobs, developing estimates, crafting contract proposals and coordinating painting crews. Though she says she learned a lot about the painting process, her biggest lesson from the experience was “learning about customers, handling problems and the importance of fulfilling what you say you will do.

Or take Caleb Bauman, 16, who, in addition to running his dog walking business, worked with friends Eli Cohen and Parker Cookson on calculating and purchasing inventory, deciding what products to offer, setting prices and staffing the snack bar at the Dale View Swim Club. “We were responsible for putting a proposal together for the (Dale View) Board and putting up our own money for the operation.” An experience he says helped him learn “social and money management skills.”

Curcio and Bauman are just two of the latest in a long line of Takoma Park students who have started and operated summer businesses. One legacy example is the Frogsnorts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a summer day-camp centered around various wizarding and magical themes.

The camp for 4-10 year olds was started 11 years ago by some Takoma Park high school students. The camp runs for one month every summer and hosts 10-20 children per week. Through the years hundreds of children have attended and dozens of Takoma Park young men and women have independently run the camp and handed it down. Isabel Hendrix-Jenkins and Katrina Golladay currently serve as headmistresses for the camp, with help from several other Takoma Park students.

It is these types of young entrepreneurs that Denise Jones is hoping to cultivate through the Youth Entrepreneurs Program, a part of the Takoma Park Youth Collaborative. The 10-week program will be delivered for its third cycle this fall. It will be held from 7 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings at the Community Center, beginning on Sept. 28 and ending Dec.14.

The program features guest speakers and has a different focus each week. Topics include developing a business plan, selling your idea, financing options and managing the business. It is targeted to all youth (aged 14 -21) who live in or go to school in Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Takoma D/C or Hyattsville, with particular emphasis on low income youth, a group that Jones says can reap great benefits from the program.

“Many of the participants may not have worked at all, so there is a big learning curve to cover in such a short period of time,” she said. “Eventually we are able to have them reflect and build upon their own ideas so that they know what is needed to launch a business in the future.”

Bauman and Curcio can both testify that for all the technical pieces involved in launching a business, attitude is critically important. Bauman, who began his dog walking business in 9th grade possesses an entrepreneurial mindset. “I love running my own business, and I would love to own many businesses in the future,” he said.

Curcio cites perseverance as being critical. “The College Works people told me, ‘There will be times when you want to quit,’ which I did several times,” she said. “But I stuck it out and I am glad I did. The biggest lesson I learned was that (running a business) is all about challenging yourself.”

This article appeared in the September 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.