2011-03-24 / Community

Teens visit Chamber to get a look at the world of business

By Stephanie Bertholdo

The Conejo/ Las Virgenes Future Foundation’s youngest members are getting a look at how businesses, nonprofits and community groups operate in real life as they take part in the 2010- 2011 Youth Congress Leadership Program.

The program, which began last November, has 70 students from area schools, including Ag oura, Calabasas High, La Reina, Newbury Park, Oak Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake high schools.

Youth Congress helps students learn more about their communities and encourages them to become active members of their cities, said Karen Malatesta, the organization’s executive director.

Earlier this month the students learned the ins and outs of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, an advocate for businesses in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

Jill Lederer, Chamber president, explained how her group assists both big and small businesses. Lederer said the Chamber has been instrumental in helping start-up companie s grow their customer base, and larger companies change with the times.

Lederer told the students that businesses in all sectors, including manufacturing, technology, “brick and mortar,” and even home-based businesses, share a need for new customers and clients. Growth is essential.

“You can get better, or you can get worse, but you don’t stay the same,” she said.

Lederer said the social media have changed the way businesses operate. The Chamber recently hosted a workshop to help its members capitalize on the new business paradigm. She said many business owners didn’t know how to fully utilize their smart phones to help them capture more sales.

The Chamber also helps its members determine if they are spending their money wisely,

Regarding advertising, Lederer said, “We want to make sure they are buying smart.”

The Future Foundation teen program will run through April.

In addition to their stop at the Chamber, the students will have visited a variety of government agencies, nonprofit organization and community groups by the end of the five-month program.

So far, they have visited the Kavli Theater at the Civic Arts Plaza, the East Valley Sheriff’s Station, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, and Community Conscience, a Thousand Oaksbased nonprofit group that houses 13 social service agencies.

They also have attended forums by the local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. Next on their agenda is a visit to the Las Virgenes Unified School District and Thousand Oaks Hospital.

The program will end with a dinner hosted by the Thousand Oaks Kiwanis.

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