It’s not unusual for a child to run up to a teacher in public, excited. It is a little more unusual for the child to then show off a stock portfolio.
But it’s happened to Corey Camp and Jimmy Williams, 45-year-old friends from their days at Central High School in Philadelphia. They run a free financial literacy summer camp for children as young as 5.
Their business, Buy the Hood LLC, began around 2015 as a way to teach adults about finances, investing, and the power of ownership. Many adults didn’t know the basics of such concepts as credit and property ownership, topics rarely taught in school. Camp, a special-education teacher at Mastery Charter School’s Pickett Campus in Germantown, and Williams, a Philadelphia real estate agent and investor, realized children stood to benefit the most from learning and applying these lessons early.
“Imagine if the concepts were put in front of us at 5 years old, and you could grow with them,” Williams said.
So Williams and Camp started the Buy the Hood Ownership Camp seven years ago. Through games and relatable examples, children learn about budgeting, investing, taxes, and cryptocurrency, and how banks work. They learn how to grow their money over time and about the Rule of 72, calculating how many years their money would take to double at a certain interest rate.
“What we wanted to do is create an army of financially stable, financially literate young people,” Camp said.
The camp used to be held at a Germantown day care center, but it went virtual during the pandemic, allowing children from across the country to attend. About 60 children, including repeat campers, are attending this year’s camp, which began June 25 and runs for six consecutive Saturday mornings. Williams and Camp also plan to help start financial literacy camps in other cities.
They have been recruiting campers through their networks, and the vast majority of the children who attend are Black. Nationwide, the typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family. Most families build wealth by owning property. But the home ownership rate among Black households (43%) has dropped in the last decade and is well behind the home ownership rate among white households (72%).
“Right now everyone is talking about wealth-building and generational wealth,” said Nicole Purvy, an entrepreneur and founder of the nonprofit Philly Real Estate Week, Inc., which teaches adults about real estate investing and home ownership. “But what good is it if we don’t teach the next generation how to receive it?”
» READ MORE: It’s no easier for Black Philadelphians to become homeowners now than it was 30 years ago
This year, she partnered with Williams and Camp to create the new website and organize a fall gala to raise awareness and funds for the camp. Thanks to the partnership, campers will get a modest stipend to invest.
Rochelle Wilson-Ellis’ 16-year-old son, Kamren Ellis, and 10-year-old daughter, Keziah Ellis, have attended the camp from Detroit since it went virtual. Wilson-Ellis is an account analyst for a hospital group who owns several businesses and is enrolled in Buy the Hood University for adults.
“The camp is so amazing because they’re teaching them on their level,” she said. “When they would get out of class, they’d be like, ‘Ma, I learned this.’”
Although Camp and Williams try to make financial concepts digestible for children, they tell campers they shouldn’t worry about understanding everything they hear. Some concepts will make sense when they’re older.
The camp founders talk about brands the children like. Disney World is real estate, students learn. Someone owns their favorite sneaker brands, video games, movies, and restaurants. A lot of children don’t realize they can own things, Williams said.
“They know they’ve always had a landlord. Well, you can also be the landlord,” Williams said. “They may put themselves in the position to be the first owners in their families.”
» READ MORE: Gaps in Black and white home ownership transcend a booming market and threaten to leave some behind
The friends teach financial concepts through understandable examples. Imagine, Camp told students, he borrowed $10 from Williams to buy and eat a cheesesteak. “I don’t have any more money, and I don’t have a cheesesteak,” he said — and he still has to pay back Williams.
But, he said, imagine he used that same borrowed money to buy cases of water and sold each bottle for $1. “I used leverage, I invested, and I made more money,” Camp said.
In the first two weeks of the camp, students asked lots of sharp questions. From a 6-year-old: Does money expire? Is dug-up pirate treasure worth more many years after it was buried?
From a 13-year-old: What would happen if I bought the entire stock market?
From a 7-year-old: How do I create a business?
From a 13-year-old: How do I manage my money, so I’ll be ready for my first job?
From a 16-year-old: What are some ways to make money other than a job?
Kalaiyah Vicks of North Philadelphia is a 10-year-old actor who has been in short films, commercials, and print advertisements and played background characters on the HBO show Mare of Easttown and the AMC show Dispatches from Elsewhere. At camp, she’s learned to pay herself first by investing and saving some of the money she earns.
Kalaiyah also attended the camp when it was held in person a few years ago, and her stock portfolio includes shares in companies she chose. She’s up 12%.
Her “big goal,” she said, is to be a singer and fashion designer. “I want to own a brand, something like Louis Vuitton, something that will sell very high, like designer,” she said.
Her father, Kahaun Vicks, went to high school with the camp’s cofounders and is a member of a Black investing group with them. Vicks, who works for the U.S. Department of Defense, and his wife, Kaleandra, a real estate agent and owner of 3K Cleaning Service, were eager to enroll Kalaiyah in the camp.
“Just trying to teach her early about stock investing and the power of ownership, understanding money at a young age,” her father said. “I really just wanted her to have [that education], because I didn’t really get it. … I learned a lot of these concepts when I become an adult.”
Parents also can learn a lot from the camp, he said.
Ten-year-old Keziah Ellis sews bonnets and has made at least $1,000 in a year selling them online. From the camp, she learned to track how much she spends on fabric and her profits.
“I like money. Money’s my favorite thing,” she said. She’s always had trouble with math, and thinking in terms of money helps her focus.
She recommends that children learn how to capitalize on their interests. For example, say someone likes hamsters, she said. They can try investing in hamsters.
Her brother Kamren has a tutoring business in which he teaches classic subjects and the basics of what he’s learned at the Buy the Hood camp. “So we can all get this money together,” he said.
Sixteen-year-old Milan Smalls and 9-year-old Nile Smalls of Mount Airy have attended the camp for a few years.
Nile has learned about stocks — “when to buy and when to not” — entrepreneurship, and bitcoin. He plans to one day write and market a book.
When his big sister was in eighth grade, she self-published a book on Amazon called It’s OK to Hear. “I have a hearing disability, so I wrote about that and try to lift kids’ spirits,” said Milan, who plans to be an oral surgeon.
The camp taught her how to manage money and use a credit card now to build up credit, she said. It’s “just an awesome experience” and more interactive than school, she said.
Their father’s experience as a real estate investor and agent has helped guide Milan’s interests at this year’s camp. “I want to learn more about what my dad has been telling me over the years,” she said.
Financial literacy “is definitely needed in the Black community,” Mark Smalls said. “And this is one part of being financially literate and independent.”
“I wish there was something like this when I was growing up,” he said. “When I was 20, 21, I knew nothing about a stock.”
He said he tries to spread the word about the camp as much as possible, “so the inner city can know it’s free and it’s something that you can learn and it’s something that we can get in now, early.”
To learn more, go to buythehoodcamp.com.