Twenty rising ninth-grade girls are learning to articulate their passions and career objectives while simultaneously enhancing their entrepreneurial skills.
The young women were participating in an inaugural camp for students entering the Kempsville Entrepreneurship Academy in the fall. While the academy, which is also new, welcomes all students who are interested in business-related careers, the weeklong camp’s female-oriented focus is intended to empower and encourage girls by introducing successful, positive female role models.
The role models include Angela Reddix, the founder and CEO of ARDX, a Norfolk-based management consulting company, who teamed up with Virginia Beach schools to produce the camp. Her company will mark 10 years in business in November.
Reddix told the girls she is running a business that has done nearly $100 million in federal government contracts. “As a woman,” she said, “what I know to be true in all of those years is that there are not enough women around the table. What I know to be true is there are challenges as you attempt to juggle (and) provide work-life balance for your family. There are sacrifices that are made.”
Reddix said one of the key takeaways is entrepreneurship is a business skill that must be studied and sharpened. Marketing and finance and other core skills are important too, but when it comes to entrepreneurship, “there’s some fundamental soft skills that I would say you need.”
A graduate of Cox High School in Virginia Beach, Reddix went to James Madison University to study marketing and business. She also has worked in telecommunications and health care and is currently a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University. In her opening remarks to the students, Reddix told the young women no one is ever too young for vision.
“We want to ignite that vision,” Reddix said. “I believe it’s there. We want to help you to formulate the vision, formulate the plan and then move it into action.
“I am committed to being a lifelong learner,” Reddix said. “I love being around individuals just like you because I believe you learn from everyone. You don’t have to learn from people who are your seniors. You learn from everyone who’s around you.”
Those kinds of connections are in line with what the academy is looking for, said Meghan Timlin who is the coordinator of the entrepreneurship and business academy at Kempsville. Although the opportunity for students to get involved this academic year has passed, there is definitely a chance for involvement and support from the business community.
“We are the eighth of the academic academies in Virginia Beach city public schools. And we are the first in 10 years,” Timlin said.
At the close of the camp at the end of the week, students will pitch their ideas to local entrepreneurs and the winner will get $500.
Students came ready to share their passions and business visions Monday, and in the first couple hours of the camp, excitement and interest were high. Savannah Wheeler said she wanted to be involved in the student program because it sounded like a good opportunity to advance her dreams.
“I really like writing and reading and all sorts of books and stuff, so I thought it would be a cool thing to do to start my own publishing company. I could help people and help girls like me who really want their dreams to happen.”
Another student, Samantha Renaud, said she’d like to translate her interests into a possible career creating a fashion line or working as a full-time artist.
“I love to explain myself through all types of media – art, visual, music, dance, fashion – everything tells a story,” Samantha said.
“I personally don’t have the problem of (not enough) self confidence, but I know many people who do,” she said. “And I know people who have let it tear them apart.” The camp, she added, not only fosters academic growth, but validation, too, by letting everyone know “you have something here. You have the potential.”