May 8 2014, 6:00pm CDT | by Forbes
When you’re sixteen, people want to help you, teach you and mentor you. But by the time you’re eighteen the world expects too much and offers too little, thinks David Fagan, the founder of a summer camp for teenage entrepreneurs that promises to be a mash up of Shark tank and American idol. He thinks we’d be better off if half of sixteen year olds just quit school and become entrepreneurs.
“Kids need to experience entrepreneurialism,” says Fagan. “It’s not for everyone, but everyone should at least try it. I make my kids earn money for different things that they want to do.”
For around $3000 you can send your teen to his six-day summer camp in Laguna Beach where they can learn about how to develop a brand and bring an idea to market, through intensive training involving photo shoots, graphic design, website design and tips on raising capital. A spin off from his usual three day events for teens, Fagan says the week functions like an accelerator and demand is high thanks to a school system that doesn’t encourage entrepreneurship and the feverish popularity of Shark Tank.
For Fagan, owner of Icon Builder Media, a marketing company based in Beverly Hills and author of numerous business books, it’s a natural extension of what he’s been teaching his eight kids since birth.
“When my eldest was ten she wanted to go on trip with me to New York,” says Fagan. “I said, that’s fine, but you have to earn the money.” He helped his daughter start a car washing business which proved lucrative thanks to the door-to-door script he designed for her and she saved enough to accompany him to a leadership event in New York. She’s since gone on to found her own teenager temp agency, Hire A Teen. “Teenagers can just work from their homes – they can do powerpoint, they can do data entry – it’s easier than Burger King and they’re really good when it comes to social media and things like that,” explains Fagan.
Fagan is keen to point out they’re not selling kids on the idea of being entrepreneurs – these kids will already have ideas, concepts or inventions sketched out which the camp will start working with them on.
“What we’re doing is saying, look in the real world I have a PR company, we represent a lot of big names and bestselling authors,” says Fagan. “I’m telling them, here’s what you do – here’s how you launch a book, here’s how you start your own magazine, here’s how you put on an event, here’s how you do a joint venture, here’s how you get testimonials. It’s the nitty gritty, telling them day in and day out here’s what you need to do to grow your business.”
He’s also trying to deter parents anxious to hothouse their kids in the hopes of raising the next Zuckerberg. “There are things that we do throughout the year where kids do get pushed into it – the parents say come on just do it,” says Fagan. But with parents stumping up three grand for summer camp, “this isn’t a push, they’re already involved in it and they have to already be doing a lot of stuff,” he says.
Previous mentees of Fagan have done well for themselves. Houston Gunn is a 16-year-old high school student with who used the money he earned through childhood commercials to invest in real estate and raise $48,000 to write two books, build a website, schedule a national book tour, hire a full-service PR firm and launch JOLT Magazine: The Young Entrepreneur Revolution. He’s since received endorsements from Donald Trump and Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank. Gunn will be part of the camp’s guest faculty as a leader and presenter sharing and teaching his secrets to success.
What do the teens Fagan teaches have in common? “I think all of them have low attention when it comes to school,” he says. “Maybe they’re not ADD but they just think differently, they act differently, they want to be outside and they want to be interactive.”
Some want to be stars. They’re performers looking to up their online following and get a head start learning how to manage their brand. Fagan helps them gain exposure by building websites, networking and styling. That way when they pitch people later on they’ll “very polished, very prepared and sophisticated,” says Fagan.
Asked about online safety, he says it’s like sending your kids to the mall.
“Some parents don’t want kids to do anything in social media and that’s fine but nowadays, you’ve got to put yourself out there,” he says.
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