Camille Allen is a third generation entrepreneur.
The Durham mom of two started her first business at the tender age of six, selling Blow Pops at school to earn money to give to the homeless she saw on the streets. The experience only fueled her desire to create. Eventually she was making friendship bracelets and selling personalized mud pies.
Yes ... "I sold dirt," she said.
And now she wants to help other kids launch their own dreams with The Duyu Project. She'll hold a free camp at South Regional Library in Durham on Aug. 31 where kids ages 6 to 16 can learn about figuring out their own passions; determining their strengths and skills; traditional and non-traditional career options; and an introduction to entrepreneurship.
"I want to teach kids how to create their life ... how to make something from what they love," Allen said.
Allen hasn't always gone the entrepreneur route. She went to college to become a school teacher, attended cosmetology school and took interior design courses. She spent years in corporate America, working in marketing and brand management.
"I loved it. I got burned out," she said. "There was no way for me to grow."
She remembered a decision she made at age 8, to become a philanthropist, and decided that if she wanted to make enough money to give back to others, she need to do it for herself. A few years ago, she left the corporate world and launched a business helping other women entrepreneurs find their passion and get started.
Around the same time, with her encouragement, her own kids started their own businesses. Now ages 9 and 11, they create birthday party kits. Her 11-year-old daughter puts together packages of kits for kids to make bracelets and other jewelry. Her nine-year-old son makes temporary tattoos. The business has grown steadily. They now ship their kits all over the country to friends of friends who have heard about their products.
Allen knew that other kids would love to do the same sorts of things. But few kids stumble upon entrepreneurship classes. And for those, like her, who aren't interested in a traditional career path, she knew she could provide some guidance.
She has big plans for The Duyu Project (Duyu is short for what do you want to be). She hopes to hold a Kids Expo next year with a kid's version of the hit show Shark Tank where kids would present their business ideas to local investors. She'd like to raise $10,000 so five kids could each get $2,000 to start a business.
Most of all, she wants to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to follow their own passions and create a life for themselves.
"I don't live with regrets," she said. "I feel like the path that I took, I took for a reason."
Registration is required for the Career Camp scheduled for Aug. 31. For all the details and more information about The Duyu Project, go to TheDuyuProject.org and watch my video interview with her.
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