Camp Inc. campers pitch innovative ideas | SteamboatToday.com

Camp Inc. campers pitch innovative ideas

Liz Forster

The last time a Steamboat Springs City Council had a majority of women serving was in 1987. The four women on that council included

— After two and a half weeks of ideation, branding, marketing and other business workshops, 23 sixth- through 12th-grade Camp Inc. campers pitched their unique products to a panel of experts during the entrepreneurship camp’s spin on the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”

The presentations took place Friday at the Chief Theater.

"I was super impressed with the quality of the teams that presented today," said Gary Gaessler, co-founder of Cloud Elements.

Gaessler served as a shark alongside serial entrepreneur John Moyer and Chris Tamucci, director of operations at Honey Stinger and Big Agnes.

"I've traveled the world mentoring and speaking for start-up accelerators,” Gaessler said. “They’re all strictly for adults, so there’s nothing like this."

That’s exactly what Josh Pierce, chief camp officer, had hoped for when he launched Camp Inc. in the summer of 2014 as an overnight camp that blended lessons in entrepreneurship with the traditional recreation of camp.

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"We feel like a lot of the skills in entrepreneurship are real-world life skills," Pierce said. "We show the campers the world of innovation and technology, how to have a stage presence, how to shake someone's hand and look them in the eye, and how to talk about something you're passionate about so they can follow through with their dreams."

The products presented at Camp Inc. ranged from a kit of interchangeable shoe soles to accommodate the every day athlete by Wolfcore to an advanced emergency alert program designed for schools by VISU. This is the camp’s second year of operation but the first time it’s been held in Steamboat.

During their pitches, the seven groups of campers presented their product features, target audiences, design and sale costs and marketing strategies all while preparing for questions from the panel of sharks evaluating their products. Some even had sample products printed from a 3-D printer.

High school juniors Maxim Quint, Steve Kay and Josh Phillips founded Go Power, a brand creating potable battery packs powered by kinetic energy for outdoor recreationalists. Their pitch won the best marketing award for groups and particularly impressed Tamucci as a formidable product in the outdoor industry.

After presenting and receiving feedback, the group agreed this experience would propel them forward in the future.

“This was a great experience that I can legitimately take a lot away from that can help me enter the business field,” Phillips said. “And I just had a lot of fun.”

Rebecca Bloom, eighth grader and member of Tracker Back, also sees her experience at Camp Inc. as a means by which she can fulfill her dreams of becoming a musical engineer.

“A lot of us at camp had no experience coming in, and after two weeks, we know more than a lot of adults,” Bloom said. “I now know how to start a company on a small scale here, which will help me make my company happen."

Part of the campers' successes have come from Camp Inc.’s growth after its first summer, including the relocation to Steamboat.

After spending the first year of camp in Boulder and its community of venture-backed start-ups, tech stars and "grow-big-fast” mentality, Pierce looked to move to towns with a better balance between work and play. After evaluating sites in Fort Collins and Aspen, he settled on the Steamboat Mountain School.

"In Steamboat, we're close enough to a city that we could bring in entrepreneurs and tour businesses but also have access to hiking, the hot springs and other recreation," Pierce said. "On the business side, there is just great resources here to access to show the campers real-world business people that have a different mindset then those in Boulder."

For more information on Camp Inc., visit campinc.com.

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster