Cary-Grove students to compete in virtual business contest
Some Cary-Grove High School students learning real-world business skills through a virtual entrepreneurship class will compete in a national competition this spring.
Students will pitch their business concept for a website selling virtual home furnishings and accessories to a panel of judges at Virtual Enterprises International's National Business Plan Competition April 3-5 in New York City. They are among the top 28 teams from high schools nationwide representing the best and brightest student leaders and budding entrepreneurs, according to the organization's website.
In December, Cary-Grove's "Auggies" team placed second in VEI's 2016 Illinois Business Plan Competition at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb making it a national finalist. The only other suburban team to make it is Elmwood Park High School.
Students not only have to write a business plan, but also create a website with a product line, advertising, promotional materials, and produce financial statements.
"The whole idea behind the class is to give students an idea of what the business world is like," said junior Matt Ahmann, 17, who wants to study business finance and become an entrepreneur like his parents, who own an adoption agency in Crystal Lake.
Matt said his role as Auggies' vice president of sales mostly has been learning how to deal with co-workers and making deals with other firms.
"It is as much realistic as it can be," he said. "VEI has created the best simulated virtual environment for business."
Students don't actually sell anything through their website, whose inventory comprises real-world products. Buying and selling takes place using virtual money in an online marketplace with other student-run virtual businesses.
"It's very cool and interactive," said David Cook, Cary-Grove business education teacher. "Kids would receive a virtual paycheck, go out to these virtual firms, and buy things as a consumer."
VEI provides student teams with support to develop their websites, and sets them up with virtual bank accounts, and inventory management and sales systems.
Of the 28 teams competing, only six will make it to the final round.
"There will be a clear winner," Cook said. "There is no prize money. Going to New York is already the reward."
Cary-Grove students raised roughly $10,000 through fundraisers and community donors for the trip to VEI's 2017 Youth Business Summit, of which only a portion involves the business plan competition. The summit also includes a trade show in which students will have booths advertising their virtual companies.
"The kids learn more than we can provide them in just the classroom or school," Cook said. "They are competing with submissions from all over the country."