On Thursday, Jonathan Lev and Josh Pierce got the call they’ve been eagerly awaiting, informing them that the proposal for Camp Inc. was selected for funding by the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Specialty Camp Incubator II program.
Made possible by a grant of $8.6 million jointly funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and AVI CHAI Foundation, four Incubator camps will be launched in the summer of 2014. One of 39 proposals, Camp Inc, an entrepreneurial camp for 7th to 12th grade students students housed at CU Boulder, will be one of them.
When Lev conceived the idea for Camp Inc., there were a number of factors guiding his vision for a program that would encourage, nurture and inspire young entrepreneurs.
Armed with the knowledge that Jewish camp is proven to be one of the single most influential experiences in determining future engagement in Jewish life, Lev says he jumped at the challenge launched by the Foundation for Jewish Camp to create a camp that fills a unique need in Jewish life.
A life-long Jewish camp advocate who started his first business right after graduating from CU, Lev took note of the national lack of Jewish camps designed specifically for students interested in business. He thought the time was right.
Lev knew he had found the perfect partner in Josh Pierce, who will be the camp’s founding director and chief innovator. Like Lev, Pierce is both a product and a proponent of the Jewish summer camp experience, and, like Lev, a practiced and passionate entrepreneur. From 2001 to 2011, Pierce ran Dance Trax, an award-winning event production company serving Colorado. Lev applauds his innovation, his knowledge of the Jewish communal landscape, and his dedication to excellence. “He just gets it,” Lev says of the man who will run Camp Inc.
Today entrepreneurs are celebrities in our culture,” says Pierce, “and more young people are inspired to make a difference in their communities and the world through entrepreneurship.”
Judaism, they reasoned, has a lot to say about ethics, morals and values as they relate to business, he adds, and the Jewish tradition helps teach business people and community leaders how to connect philanthropically.
Israel was also on their mind as they thought about what Camp Inc. had to offer. In Israel education, one often-overlooked teaching opportunity has to do with Israel’s status as the world’s leading start-up nation. “We can learn a tremendous amount from them,” Lev says.
Pierce is quick to point out that while the camp is geared to aspiring entrepreneurs, plentiful in the Jewish community, it is not limited to those interested in business.
The leadership skills of team-building, cooperation, articulating and achieving a vision, and thinking outside the box that they will learn can be applied to any endeavor, whether they becomes doctors running their own practice or educators dedicated to innovation.”
Jonathan and Josh also knew he was in the perfect place to host Camp Inc. Boulder is not only a beautiful and inspiring natural environment to provide the fun factor necessary for any summer camp, but is also an entrepreneurial mecca. Boulder offers an ecosystem conducive to learning first-hand about the entrepreneurial spirit and the realities of its practice.
Lev will work closely with Pierce and his staff, ensuring that the camp is a vital program that reflects the values of the Boulder JCC. As the executive director of an innovative JCC that has defied the national odds to realize the dream of an ambitious capital campaign to create a new center for Jewish life in Boulder, Lev believes that Camp Inc is a perfect fit with its strategic goals.
It is yet another new model for engagement that fits the vision of the Boulder JCC’s board, staff and community,” Susan Rona, president of the Boulder JCC Board explains. “It provides an opportunity to share and connect in Boulder and to be recognized as a leader nationally.”
Lev is humbled to be in the company of the three other camps chosen to be part of the Incubator Program, which include a health and wellness camp, a sports camp and a science and technology camp. He says he is also honored by the confidence shown in the idea by the Foundation for Jewish Camp, which has tremendous expertise in creating cutting edge camp experience. In addition, The Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation have excellent track records in identifying needs in Jewish life and education in the 21st century.
Scott Peppet, of Camp Inc.’s Advisory Board, underscores Lev and Pierce’s enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial nature of the camp teaching entrepreneurialism.
Camp Inc. is going to be the first camp of its kind — educating campers about business and entrepreneurship in a ridiculously fun overnight camp experience,” Peppet says.
“It’s also going to be the first camp to connect entrepreneurship to Jewish values and to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Jewish community. Finally, it’s going to be an amazing way to connect Colorado’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to kids from across the country that will be tomorrow’s business leaders. I am excited to help lead this effort as we set the standard for entrepreneurship immersion programs for teenagers.”