Social Enterprise Camp Sparks Creative Solutions: Students Inspired to Make a Living Making a Difference

Imagine a distribution system for getting locally grown organic foods to families in need. Or a business focused on recycling used and abandoned small watercraft such as kayaks and canoes. Or a program for recycling trash that is picked up along the St. Croix River. These are a few of the social enterprise business concepts developed by local students who participated in the recent inaugural Sparks! Social Enterprise Camp.

It will take creative thinking to solve many of the world’s social and environmental challenges. Private enterprise will likely have to do much of the heavy lifting. The good news: many young people today hope to make their living making a difference. Sparks! Social Enterprise Camp gave local high school students the opportunity to learn firsthand from real social enterprise companies, planting the seeds for starting their own values-based businesses in the future.

Fifteen high school students from the St. Croix Valley and surrounding areas participated in the day camp, which took place June 19 – 23 in Stillwater. The program, an initiative of the Stillwater Area Foundation, was made possible through a grant provided by RBC Wealth Management. Base camp space was donated by The Idea Pad in Stillwater. Mike Vergin, social enterprise and entrepreneurship teacher from Mounds Park Academy, served as camp director.

During five busy days, the group learned from business professionals, visited local social enterprises, and then developed concepts for their own social enterprises, which were presented at the camp’s wrap-up celebration.

On Tuesday, a field trip to visit social enterprises throughout the Twin Cities included stops at Cookie Cart and New Rules in North Minneapolis and Keys 4/4 Kids and the Express Bike Shop in St. Paul.

Social enterprises are businesses that generate both a financial return for their owners and a social return that benefits the community, the environment or a particular disadvantaged population segment.

Tom Triplett, Stillwater Area Foundation board member, was an advocate for Sparks!  “Our foundation supports a broad array of activities to help our communities. This one was especially important since it brought in area young people to explore the potential of businesses that provide both financial return and community benefit,” said Reamer. The ideas generated by the campers were inspired by a combination of Stillwater Area Foundation’s findings on community needs and their own personal interests and concerns.

For more information about Sparks! please contact Stillwater Area Foundation board member Tom Triplett: Phone: 651-222-0239, email


The Stillwater Area Foundation was established in 2010 and is an affiliate of the St. Croix Valley Foundation.  For more information, go to the website at

For Immediate Release
June 30, 2017

Tom Triplett, board member
Stillwater Area Foundation
Phone: 651-222-0239

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.