FRANKFORT — When twins Chris and Clinton Mills started an Internet company at age 15, they were in over their heads.
In 1999, the brothers, who were sophomores at Bowling Green High School, had stumbled onto an Internet marketing concept that caught on quickly. Within six months, they had more than 10,000 clients. But they had no idea what an occupational sales tax was or how to write up a business plan.
They didn't know what Social Security was.
The twins turned to the Small Business Administration for help. "But the SBA is not geared towards two 15-year-olds," Chris Mills said Wednesday at a news conference in Frankfort.
Now, young entrepreneurs like the Mills brothers will have a place to get that kind of training.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday the launch of the Governor's School for Entrepreneurs, a three-week summer camp for high school students that will teach kids innovation, creative thinking and entrepreneurship.
The vast majority of new jobs created in Kentucky and the country are started by small-business owners like the Millses, Beshear said.
The state's economic development and technology leaders realized recently that there was no program in Kentucky to foster and encourage young entrepreneurs. Based on the successful model of the Governor's Scholars and the Governor's School for the Arts, state officials decided to launch the Governor's School for Entrepreneurs this year.
The program will begin in June 2013 at Georgetown College. As many as 50 students will be selected to attend the camp. Students will learn about company start-up, product validation, design and marketing. By the end of the summer, students should be able to launch a real company or product.
"Students will be selected to participate through a competitive and creative application process," said Laurie Daugherty, director of the Governor's School of Entrepreneurs.
"We will be looking for students who thrive in a creative and innovative environment, and function well as a team," Beshear said.
Applications will be available beginning next week on the program's website, GSE.kstc.com. The deadline is Feb. 15, Daugherty said.
She already has toured high schools to explain the new program and drum up interest. There will be no cost to the students.
The program was started with a $50,000 grant from the Cabinet for Economic Development. The remaining money — $125,000 to $150,000 — will come from the private sector.
The Governor's School for Entrepreneurs will go a long way to developing an entrepreneur "farm system," Beshear said.
Hitcents, the Mills' company, has grown into a software-development company with 60 employees. It recently broke ground on a new headquarters in downtown Bowling Green.
Chris Mills said the company has been able to grow and remain competitive because of Kentucky's low cost of doing business.
Mills said he and his brother would have benefited from a Governor's School for Entrepreneurs when they were 15.
"The more we can do to acclimate these students to these kind of concepts, the more they are going to be able to use it in their career," Mills said.
Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com