Beyond coding: Code Fever’s tech boot camp teaches students the basics of business

Above: Michaela Murdock, 14, and Alecx Murdock, 18, get advice on their business, The Hairy Travel, from Code Fever co-founder Derick Pearson. Photo by Glissette Santana.

On their first day of summer camp, Zekai Hamilton, 11, and Eric Nanhay, 9, learned how to make memes and GIFs.

This wasn’t an attempt to boost their social media followers, though. Zekai and Eric were building the marketing strategy for their business, Soccer Basketball Corporation, a game they created as part of a project during Code Fever’s Technology Summer Bootcamp.

Gideon Kahase, 12, explains the wire frame for his business idea, an all-in-one gum that changes flavors, à la Willy Wonka. Photo by Glissette Santana.

The six-week camp, held twice a week at the African-American Research Library in Fort Lauderdale, started June 13 and aims to teach minority children coding, as well as business strategies such as crowdfunding and marketing. Children ages 9 to 18 are participating in the free camp.

Code Fever, a coding and startup school supported by Knight Foundation, focuses on teaching high-potential students technology and entrepreneurship skills essential to success later in life. The company also sponsors adult programs, which includes a 16-week intensive boot camp that teaches similar skills.

Co-founder Derick Pearson said this is essential to Code Fever’s mission and the success of their camp.

“You don’t want them to be pigeonholed,” Pearson said. “You want them to have any and every opportunity provided to them … teaching them business skills, teaching them the opportunity to monetize those skills, create revenue and a better life for themselves.”

Students are working in groups to develop a business plan, understand the market and define their competitors. They will present their plans in a showcase on July 26.

Bootcamp assistant instructor Ryan Hall said they came up with the topics for the camp – startup and pitch training, HTML and CSS, along with Javascript, WordPress, and crowdfunding – in collaboration with Code Fever members.

“We end up brainstorming with Derick, who is essentially the mastermind of the whole thing,” Hall said. “We get together and essentially flesh out the entire curriculum of whatever we’re doing. We come up with homework, we come up with exercises all together and then we put it out and build on it.”

Sisters Michaela and Alecx Murdock decided to brand their company after something they are passionate about: natural hair. The result, The Hairy Travel, is an app that allows patrons to find natural hair products at affordable prices anywhere they go.

Michaela, 14, said it took them some time to figure out exactly what kind of business they wanted.

“Well, we took everything we liked and each made a list to figure out what we had in common,” she said. “We really like our natural hair, so that’s what we decided to do.”

Every year, Code Fever presents Black Tech Week, a conference for leaders of color to collaborate and increase the number of startup founders, technology executives and engineers of color, according to its website. The annual event launched in 2015 with Knight funding. Pearson said he hopes the summer boot camp creates a channel for students who are interested in technology to stay continually involved with Code Fever into adulthood.

“Hopefully, they will want to continue to be inside of our program and go into our adult cohort,” Pearson said. “Once they go through the adult cohort, they’ll want to go through Black Tech Week; and once they’re in Black Tech Week, they’ll want to go to our career fair and go through our startup fair. So, it’s just a pipeline from cradle to greatness.”

Glissette Santana is an editorial intern at Knight Foundation. Email her at [email protected] or tweet her @glissettetweets.

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