Barrington High School launched not only a new school year Tuesday but a whole new concept in business education.
The Business Incubator Startup class, led by former Chicago Mercantile Exchange trader Hagop Soulakian, teaches high school juniors and sophomores the basics of starting a business with minimal waste of time and money.
Barrington Unit District 220 officials believe the program may be the first of its kind in the nation for a high school.
By the end of the year, it's expected at least one business idea and possibly more will receive investment money from the Barrington Education Foundation and other community sponsors.
That's the reason primarily juniors are involved in the class. If their ideas are chosen, they'll still be around to develop the business the following year.
"The foundation is making an investment in a company," Soulakian said. "This isn't money being thrown around for fun."
The five daily sessions of the class occupy a newly renovated room designed to inspire creative thinking, and stocked with state-of-the-art technology to aid the students in their collaborations.
"I don't want the students taking the class just because it's a cool room, but it's going to be a lot of fun," Soulakian said.
While he didn't have much of a chance Tuesday to learn about each student's motivation for taking the class, Soulakian told them all that greatness was going to be coming out of their classroom and that they shouldn't be afraid of taking risks.
Each class of 25 students will be divided into teams of five to pursue implementation of an idea. But from now until Nov. 7, the students will work individually on seeking out problems they would like a product or service to solve.
"It all starts with the problem," Soulakian said. "We're trying to identify a list of problems to be solved."
On Nov. 8, the students will begin working in teams to pick a specific business idea to pursue. Just before winter break, the teams will be expected to launch a "minimal viable product" to test whether their idea has legs.
But it won't be until May that the surviving ideas will be pitched to the foundation and other potential investors.
Even those whose ideas don't end up as a viable business will have learned invaluable lessons, Soulakian said. Students will be at least six or seven years ahead of their future peers in the business world.
The Business Incubator Startup class is another example of the innovative thinking and community collaboration at Barrington High School that resulted in other successes such as BHS-TV, Soulakian said.