The magic of Washington Business Week | Don Brunell

Each summer for the past 38 years, students and adult leaders from across our state have gathered at university campuses for week-long free enterprise “boot camps” called Business Week.

Each summer for the past 38 years, students and adult leaders from across our state have gathered at university campuses for week-long free enterprise “boot camps” called Business Week.

There are other summer youth camps and school programs that focus on potential business careers, so what’s so special about Business Week?

What happens in Business Week is different. It has a magical quality that transforms the lives of both the students and the adults who mentor them.

I’ve been involved as an adult leader in Business Week since 1980. From the beginning, we wanted to ensure ethnic and economic diversity among the students, and we wanted to involve teachers as leaders and mentors. To make that possible, we asked employers and service clubs to subsidize the program and provide scholarships so high school juniors and seniors from all backgrounds could attend.

It worked.

At Business Week, students cover the spectrum of economic backgrounds. Some participants have never been on a college campus, while others are world travelers. Kids that are sometimes shunned in school interact with star athletes and student leaders. Skin color and the size of bank accounts simply don’t matter at Business Week.

When they first arrive, many of the students are unsure and skeptical, but by the second day, the magic has begun. By Friday ― graduation day ― hesitant strangers are transformed into confident enthusiastic friends who have a difficult time saying goodbye.

How does that magic work?

First, friends who arrive together are separated. Any clique, relationship or history that previously defined a student ― in their eyes or the eyes of their peers ― is gone, replaced by an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to remake yourself.

At Business Week, students are placed in groups of 10. Each group forms a company, creates an innovative product, figures out how to produce it efficiently, and crafts a marketing strategy. The teams live together, eat together, work together and learn together. Students are encouraged to share their experiences, to listen and understand. They learn how to work in teams, but they also learn how to lead.

At week’s end, the teams participate in a trade show where they sell their ideas to “investors” — business, educators and community leaders from across the state who donate their time to Business Week.

Seeing these young people come together, to watch as their confidence grows, to see them transform into self-assured, enthusiastic, imaginative people — often surprising themselves in the process — is a phenomenon that is difficult to describe.

It happens with the adults too, as major business leaders bond with teachers and students they’ve never met and may never see again.

So what transforms people?

First, the program is about learning life skills. It’s more than just being tops in the business simulation program. It is the realization that you have untapped ability and potential.

Second, it is unconventional because students are challenged to be grounded and creative at the same time. Innovation is the order of the day.

Third, Business Week offers students firsthand experience with risk and responsibility. Adults provide guiding hands, but the students develop their companies, find solutions to problems and create something the world has never seen before.

Finally, it is about bringing disparate people together to work, live and have fun. Traditional class, ethnic and economic barriers evaporate for a week.

Diversity, creativity and unlimited potential have drawn generations of immigrants to America’s shores for over 200 years. All of that is compressed into just one week at Washington Business Week.

That’s the magic of Business Week.

 

More in Business

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.

Expanded Panama Canal among challenges for Washington Ports

The $5.4 billion spent to expand the Panama Canal is paying off for East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seaports; however, it is putting more pressure on the Northwest to remain competitive.

Players taking a knee hurting the NFL | Don Brunell

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Portland, a young woman stepped onto the playing field at the beginning of the University of Montana vs Portland State football game and started singing our national anthem. She immediately drew a blank on the words and briefly stopped, but as she started apologizing, the fans spontaneously took up the singing.

New metal collecting machine may clean up contaminated waters

There is a new machine being tested in Montana which could decontaminate toxic mine tailings while recovering valuable precious minerals for everyday use.

Workshop will focus on business, social media

All are invited to learn how social media can impact business and how it can be used to create a positive experience for customers.

Impact of Hirst decision must be address

In Washington, the legislative stalemate over permitting new household wells and the state’s construction budget has not only delayed needed funding for public projects, but triggered yet another salvo in the wider conflict over future supplies of fresh water for people, fish and farms.

Mitigate massive wildfire danger | Don Brunell

At last count firefighters were battling 82 major wildfires in 10 western states. The fires have already scorched 2,300 square miles of forests and range lands, dislocated thousands of people, and burned hundreds of homes and buildings.

Silver linings to Hurricane Harvey | Don Brunell

All of the things that went wrong in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, appear to have been corrected with Houston’s recent Hurricane Harvey. Chalk it up to a series of important lessons learned.

Workshops aim to help small business owners and startups | Pierce County Library System

Pierce County Library System, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is offering two workshops to help entrepreneurs start and grow a successful business as well as share tips to advance existing small businesses.