LOGAN "Whooo, look at your profits!" Jim Pehkonen tells a group of high school students. "As far as profits go, you guys are doing great."
Pehkonen, a Salt Lake City entrepreneur, is an adviser to these 11 students attending the 28th annual Utah Business Week at Utah State University. This isn't your ordinary summer camp: The students run a simulated corporation that makes custom jeans.
Two or three times a day, the students make decisions about how many jeans to produce, including whether new facilities are needed. They decide how much to spend to advertise and develop new products, including market research and the size of the sales force. They think about
how to finance the operation and how to determine stockholders' dividends. And they learn how to deal with problems.
The decisions are fed into a computer program that accounts for changes in economic conditions and even considers the costs of terminating employees. Each group of decisions represents a business quarter, and by the end of the week, the students will have been in business 2 1/2 years.
"The computer tells them how wise their decisions were," Pehkonen says.
To teach the students what decisions to make, Utah Business Week brings in more than 15 speakers, including the Utah Jazz's Randy Rigby, who lectured on the role of supply and demand, and Gaylen Bunker, a business professor at Westminster College, who discussed the basics of business ownership.
Pehkonen's group took to heart the words of Ryan Anderson, creative director of Salt Lake advertising firm Richter7, when it came to creating a logo for their jeans brand, Unkomformed, with the K backward. David Davis, a student from Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, says they learned the value of simplicity.
"It was the most simple one," he says. "It's very clean. It has very simple lines."
Business camp's goal is to teach the students about business and the free-market system, says Peggy Larsen, chairwoman of the board of Utah Business Week.
"So they'll get out there and see how production works, how research and development happens, marketing all of that stuff," says Larsen, a senior vice president at Workers Compensation Fund who volunteers to run the business camp.
This year, 165 juniors and seniors from throughout Utah are attending the business camp. The students pay $80, and 19 businesses and charitable organizations donate $500 per student. Some sponsor one student, while others fork over $10,000 to cover the costs of 20.
Sponsors range from Chevron and Kennecott Utah Copper to the George S. and Dore Eccles Foundation and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 14 advisers are business leaders who donate their time, and the speakers are also volunteers.
In addition to participating in the business simulation and listening to speakers, the students prepare 30-second radio advertisements, visit 14 Cache Valley businesses and compete in the Business Bowl, a "Jeopardy!"-like question-and-answer game.
Breeana Coons, a junior from Kearns High School, said she came to camp because she hopes to operate a veterinary clinic someday. Like the other students, she begins her day at camp with breakfast at 7:15 a.m. and goes until lights-out at 10:30 p.m.
Although there are breaks and recreational activities, she's been busy."It's like all the time, except for like an hour and a half for free time," she says. "It's been a lot of work, but it's fun."