Dundee-Crown students get hands-on experience in new business class

 
 
Posted10/4/2015 7:30 AM
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  • Geri Alexander, owner and president of The LeadHERshift Academy marketing and branding company based in Lake in the Hills, talks with students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. Clockwise from left to right are Brandon Rice, 16, of Algonquin, Chance Lemke, 16, of Sleepy Hollow and Levi Ziegler V, 16, of Algonquin.

      Geri Alexander, owner and president of The LeadHERshift Academy marketing and branding company based in Lake in the Hills, talks with students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. Clockwise from left to right are Brandon Rice, 16, of Algonquin, Chance Lemke, 16, of Sleepy Hollow and Levi Ziegler V, 16, of Algonquin. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Echevarria of Elgin-based PKE Enterprises talks to students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School.

      Kevin Echevarria of Elgin-based PKE Enterprises talks to students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Josh Mosely, 17, of Carpentersville talks with Andrew Burns, owner of Emmett's Brewing Co., during the Business INCubator class.

      Josh Mosely, 17, of Carpentersville talks with Andrew Burns, owner of Emmett's Brewing Co., during the Business INCubator class. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Echevarria of PKE Enterprises based in Elgin, left, talks to students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

      Kevin Echevarria of PKE Enterprises based in Elgin, left, talks to students in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

Students are getting real world experience in a new business class offered at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

Business INCubator, taught by teachers Nicholas Pahl and Sara Burnett, allows teams of students to create their own small businesses, stemming from original ideas.

At the end, the groups will try to take their products or applications to the market through investments, Pahl said.

"They want to have a million-dollar company at the end," he said. "What's really going to happen is they're going to have all the knowledge and tools to go out into the real world and start a business -- or at least be an educated consumer."

For students like senior Lauren Werner, 17, the class is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in marketing, a field she is interested in pursuing.

Werner came up with the idea for a toothpaste tablet, which eliminates the mess and waste of normal toothpaste. If a consumer puts a tablet in their mouth, she said, it will foam and act as regular toothpaste.

"I thought I needed to learn more about marketing my ideas ... and I happened to think of one that hopefully will take us places," Werner said. "It's been such a good experience so far."

Dundee-Crown is also relying on help from the community, as several local business owners and entrepreneurs have volunteered to meet with the students routinely throughout the year. At open house sessions this week, mentors met with the students, heard their ideas and will be matched to a group, allowing them to help bring a project to fruition.

"It's a good change of pace from me telling them what to do because I don't have the industry experience," Pahl said.

Christina Chwala of Barrington Hills, who owns several local businesses with her husband, said this type of guidance was never offered when she was in school.

"It really shows these kids that that's how it starts -- with an idea -- and then you just have to follow through with it," Chwala said. "We just have to offer these kids whatever advice we can."

Andrew Burns, a West Dundee resident and owner of Emmett's Brewing Co., said he wants to show students that creating their own ideas is a feasible career option, even at a young age.

"I'm really excited for the prospect of working over an extended period of time with different personalities and actually helping them take their ideas from the dry board to a viable prototype," Burns said.

The idea for the class stemmed from a similar program at Barrington High School, Pahl said. Several other suburban high schools have also mirrored the idea.

Officials launched its version of the class this year as part of the Community Unit District 300's Pathway Programs, which "provide students with real-world experience and, in some cases, the credentials they need to secure an entry-level job upon graduation," said Anthony McGinn, director of public relations and community services.

Time and effort also went into reorganizing the classroom to make it suitable for presentations, brainstorming sessions and plenty of group discussion, District 300 Chief Academic Officer Ben Churchill said.

"The idea is to replicate a modern workplace and have students learn in a classroom model that's comfortable to them," he said.

Throughout the course, students will continue developing their ideas and will eventually present those ideas to investors and the District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence, Pahl said. If they do get funding, the students may move on to part two -- an independent study that will allow the students to run their businesses from the classroom.

"The energy in this room is unbelievable," Pahl said. "You just don't get this (hands-on) experience in any other classroom."

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