Learning Outside Classroom

Research and development. Sales. Marketing. Ethics. Confidence.

Juniors at Youngsville High School spent the past week working on a business project.

They developed products, marketed them, decided on spending issues from advertising to research and development, and, on Friday, presented their products at a trade show.

All through Pennsylvania Business Week, as they worked on and developed their projects, they were working on and developing themselves.

“It creates confidence in kids,” YHS Principal Phil Knapp said. “We’re standing in a gym and we’re being approached by kids. They’re approaching people they might not normally approach. That’s a huge deal.”

The students were well-dressed, motivated, and professional. Part of the motivation was the $100 per student award that was given to the top group.

Each group included more than 10 students. The students had different positions within the organizations. Those assigned to outside sales were in charge of bringing visitors to their booths for the full presentation.

The salespeople were assertive. When they saw a new person – other students, school staff members, Warren County School District officials, representatives of local businesses and organizations, anyone who might represent a potential sale – they moved in, respectfully made contact, and introduced the product.

When the potential buyer accompanied them to their company’s booth, the salesperson introduced one or more other representatives of the company.

At the booth, buyers could receive product demonstrations, hear detailed information about the product construction and capabilities, and have their questions answered. Some of the judges posed detailed questions about inventory, volume discounts, and future product development. The students handled those questions smoothly.

“They were all very cohesive,” Andrew Murphy, human resources coordinator from Ellwood National Forge and one of the judges for the trade show, said. “They were prepared.”

“This is great early experience for marketing or product sales positions,” Murphy said. “I think it was great exposure.”

The Business Week program was put on by Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System.

“It’s all about helping students to explore careers and understand how our free enterprise system works here in America,” Executive Director Val Laufenberg said. “Our mission at ACES is to promote economic education to teachers and students.”

The students participated in Business Week activities all week. They did not attend their regular classes.

“This week it’s been all this, all day, every day,” Warren Forest Higher Education School-To-Work Coordinator John Lasher said.

“It’s total immersion,” Laufenberg said.

The time away from their traditional studies was not a problem. “They learn a lot from actually doing it, seeing the whole process, going through the steps,” Knapp said. “It’s important to see the whole chain of events.”

“This is something they can remember and take to their future,” Knapp said. “Hands-on learning is sometimes some of the best learning.”

There were six groups – three developing and selling backpacks and three doing the same with binoculars. Each backpack group was associated with a binoculars group. An advisor from the business community provided suggestions, direction, and experience to each group.

One of those was Gary Barnes of First Niagara Bank.

“The kids responded great,” Barnes said. “The students really grabbed ahold of it and ran with it.”

His group, Elite Optics, sold the Oculus binoculars. Their corporate headquarters was located at 2020 Vision Street, Sharpsville, PA.

“I’m really impressed,” Barnes said. In fact, he said he would consider hiring some of the members of his group.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

Throughout the week, there were guest speakers, presentations, and various meetings.

The trade show represented 25 percent of each group’s score for the project.

The other three-quarters of the total score were equally weighted: an advertising and marketing presentation, including information about the target audience; a stockholder presentation including two years of financial information with balance sheets and income statements; and return on net assets – a computer simulated analysis of each group’s spending and pricing decisions. The simulation was run several times through the week, with students having less time to make decisions as the week progressed.

The winning team in each category, announced during an assembly Friday afternoon were: return on net assets – SuperPacks Inc.; stockholder presentation – Ambition (DuraPack); advertising and marketing – SuperPacks Inc.; trade show – Focus Finders.

The top company overall was Ambition. Team members who won the grand prize were: CEO Piper Olsen, Devon Wertz, Savannah Pollow, Curtis Hoffner, Nathan Wilcox, Samuel Bubbenmoyer, Samantha Head, John Mack, Lydia Rosenburgh, Emily McChesney, Kari Hutchinson, and Jason Gustafson.