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Business-savvy students showcase ideas

By Aaron Blevins, 12/20/2012

Fairfax High writing project produces entrepreneurs

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An anti-aging cream. A customizable trash can. A drink shop with a built-in greenhouse. A sports drink that has three flavor options. A toy that simultaneously entertains children and waters lawns.

Javier Vera (right), an account executive for a staffing company, meets with a group of Fairfax High School students who proposed creating customizable trashcans for their business plan writing assignment. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

These are some of the business concepts that students recently created through a persuasive writing project in Joel Miller’s 10th grade English class at Fairfax High School.

Students were challenged with creating a product and writing a persuasive business plan, pitching why their products would be marketable, profitable and unique. The seven-week project culminated in presentations to area business people on Thursday.

“Some of the presentations were outstanding,” said Javier Vera, an account executive for RemX Specialty Staffing. “Some of the kids are very knowledgeable in what they’re trying to present. …It starts them on a great career path, and I’m glad they gave me a presentation where they feel comfortable.”

The future entrepreneurs made their pitches to employees at the 5900 Wilshire building following seven classroom visits by the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce’s Junior Achievement personnel.

Miller, who has some experience in the business world, said having his students write and research a business plan provides a real-world application to writing persuasively. He said it’s resulted in the best writing he’s seen from sophomores.

“This is all about persuasion and all about understanding markets,” Miller said. “Why not integrate that into a high school curriculum? It’s worked very well. …They really want to share their ideas with other people. It’s great to see what they’ve produced. It’s great to see their enthusiasm and how they’ve evolved in terms of their ability to present to others and interact with others.”

The enthusiasm was evident. Alisson Guevai, Edwin Nguyen and Jacqueline Gonzalez-Lecher created a 100 percent natural drink shop, Petalaid, with the slogan, “if we can’t pronounce it, we don’t use it.”

While many drink shops exist, the group wanted to differentiate themselves from the competition by putting flower petals in their drinks — “they’re good for you” — and a greenhouse in their business — to provide a relaxing atmosphere and show patrons where their ingredients actually come from.

Nguyen said a drink shop’s environment is key, playing a critical role in a company’s success. He referenced Starbucks and how the company writes their customers’ names on their drinks. The group wanted a similar personal touch.

“I think it would be a pretty good investment,” Nguyen said of the greenhouse. “We have a lot of competition to face, so we need to distinguish ourselves from other stores.”

Aeriana Wright, Rosaline Hernandez, Jasmine Ramos and Nicolo Patungan created Plan-Co Trashcans, which are customizable. Their concept drawings showed two prototypes — R2D2 and a disco trash can.

“We found this really fun to work on,” Hernandez said. “We actually felt like we were entrepreneurs.”

Sasha Pabirskaya, Karina Aldana, Stephanie Delgado and Victor Marroquin created The H2O Go, a mobile toy that doubles as a sprinkler. Customers would simply connect their hose to the shoebox-sized toy and prepare for some summer fun.

“It’s just an alternative of your summer experience,” Pabirskaya said. “You don’t want to sit there in the hot house.”

The group envisioned creating a charitable company that makes the safety of its customers its top priority. Though they have competition in the market, their product is superior, they said.

“If you want something less satisfactory, you’d buy that product,” Marroquin said.

When asked how they came up with the product, Delgado said, “We were just sitting in the classroom, and it was hot.”

Nino Rodriguez, the property manager for 5900 Wilshire, said he met some Fairfax High School officials at a recent chamber meeting, and the idea for a partnership between the two was born.

“It was a great way to sort of marry the student community with the business community and give them a real-life application for their business plans,” he said. “We’ve see some great presentations today. Some of them have identified competitive products … but some of them have identified needs that are not in the marketplace right now. It was nice to see both of those ends, and they came up with some very detailed plans.”

Rodriguez said he would like to see the partnership continue, and the success of the project may result in just that. Miller said it was one of the easiest things he’s ever had to teach.

“I provide some of the structure and some of the expectation, then I stand back and watch the explosion of talent and energy,” he said. “That’s the kind of excitement I like to see in education.”

 

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