It’s all business for the students of Regional Occupation Program’s Virtual Enterprise class at Santa Monica High School. In an innovative new venture, students developed a product line, made all management decisions including electing a chief executive officer and deciding a salary, and created a business plan to pitch at a simulated trade show in Long Beach, where they won first place.
“Our Virtual Enterprise students exemplify the extraordinary achievement our students can attain when rigorous academic instruction is coupled with dynamic and forward-thinking experiences,” said Sandra Lyon, superintendent. “We congratulate all the students, their teacher Teri Jones and the Santa Monica High staff, and we know they will do great in New York.”
As part of the course, the students worked collaboratively to not only develop the product, a fragrance line called Pheressence, but to also market the fragrance effectively. They designed a logo and website, which is adorned in cool shades of violet and lavender and flashes images of the merchandise mixed with photos of fashionable young adults and romantic destinations.
The website assists users in choosing the best product for them while featuring accessible links to social media like Facebook and Instagram.
“Virtual Enterprise has given me insight as to the type of research and endless number of hours required to start a business while allowing me the opportunity to travel and network,” said Rosalind Niu, Santa Monica High junior.
Niu serves as chief human resources officer for Pheressence.
“This class will help with my long term goal of doing business overseas,” Niu said. “Every minute I have invested into the program has been worthwhile.”
The students, with support of their teacher Teri Jones — who has been teaching the notable Virtual Enterprise and ECHO classes (running the Vike’s Café) at Santa Monica High for 13 years — entered their business plan into the Virtual Enterprise International Long Beach Trade Show, which operates much like a real-life industry show, with booths set up and employees earnestly pitching their products.
Responsible for setting up the booth, hanging the banners, making uniforms and providing merchandise, catalogs and business cards required to sell their product, students had two hours to out-maneuver their peers and rack up the virtual sales, which amounted to more than $50,000.
The hustle and creativity of the students paid off as they were placed in the Top Ten for Sales category. Yet, it was their Business Plan Pitch that most impressed the show’s judges who awarded them first place in the category from a field of 63 other schools.
“We have had an extremely strong entrepreneurship program for many years, which strives to engage students using modern technology that channels creative instincts and application to real-life scenarios,” Jones said. “In addition to this exciting experience in New York, we have sent our students to international competitions in Shanghai and South Africa, where they have performed magnificently. I am extremely proud of these students.”
As a result of the win, a group of students has been chosen to travel to New York to compete in the 2015 Youth Business Summit in April. The six students slated to go to the competition are Jason Funston, CEO of Pheressence, Rosalind Niu, Alexis Reyes, Jennifer Santiago, Carlos Bustos and Clara Gindin.
The students will be placed on separate multinational teams, and will have two hours to complete an assignment among 150 teams competing. They will have to formulate a 10-minute presentation in front of judges and answer five minutes of questions.
The students also caught the interest of a local business with an international reach. Matchcraft, a business aimed at enhancing clients’ online image, reached out to the students in efforts to collaborate, mentor and sponsor the students ahead of the competition while assisting Funston in fine-tuning the business plan.
Virtual Enterprise International, which hosts the Youth Business Summit, is a New York-based organization that encourages the development of student-run businesses as part of a project-based, collaborative learning experience that allows students to establish and manage their own product line. Students also communicate and trade with more than 5,000 other student-run businesses in the United States and across the globe.