Student entrepreneurs develop their own businesses
While most students are kept busy through the school days due to homework and other activities, others have taken on more responsibilities by starting their own businesses while still taking on the tasks of a student.
October 3, 2019
In a world of corporations and chain stores, small businesses are becoming more and more of a rarity. Despite this, entrepreneurship continues to thrive in the US. The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute ranks the US as the number one country for entrepreneurs. Businesses are less likely to fail in the first year and more likely to survive long-term than anywhere else in the world. BSM students are starting young and establishing their own businesses while they’re still in school.
Hampton Weber, a junior at BSM, started his clothing resale business towards the end of his eighth-grade year. He focuses on streetwear and sneakers, purchasing high-demand items and reselling them for profit when supply is low. “I needed a new pair of shoes, so I asked my friend, who was into shoes, for some ideas … and I got a pair. Shortly after, I figured out through talking to that same friend that certain shoes are limited and can go for ludicrous amounts in the aftermarket. I asked him when the next limited shoe came out, and I happened to get a pair to sell,” Weber said.
As with any small business, most student startups come with staggering time commitments. Weber has to balance his activities, extracurriculars, and friendships with his business. “On average [I work] an hour a night. However, if there is a shoe or piece of clothing coming out that is highly profitable, you can find me pulling all-nighters or setting alarms for 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 AM on school nights,” Weber said.
Some entrepreneurs at BSM can expect an even bigger time commitment. Kiara Van Oort, an eighth grader with a catering business, works to cater large events about once a month. “A lot of my events are on the weekends, and I have to prepare it all… which is a little much. For the bar mitzvahs, it’s about 52 hours, 50 hours,” Van Oort said.
Although it’s difficult to balance entrepreneurship with education, BSM has business classes that can help teach student business owners critical skills. “Accounting… is very much the language of business; but then we have business law, which is very much a law class; business management includes entrepreneurship, it includes strategic and operations management… like what direction do you want to take your business;…we have sports and entertainment marketing… that discuss more of how a business gets their message out to their customers,” business department chair Mr. John Sabol said.
Beyond teaching students basic skills, business classes can inspire students to pursue entrepreneurship. They make running a business seem more feasible and realistic to students. Skylar Burnside is a senior who helps her younger brother, Jason (eighth grade) run his ring-making business. This is her second year in business classes. “The teachers… make it seem fun and interesting. Business management [is about] … running a whole business and being the boss of everything,” Burnside said.
Many students, like Jason Burnside, start their businesses because they have marketable skills that can translate into profit. But for others, the path from student to entrepreneur is much less intentional. Clare Lynch is a junior who sells her original art as stickers, posters, and coloring books. She sells at art fairs and is working to get her book into gift shops, but she didn’t originally intend to start a business with her art. “I’ve always been drawing, and then one day someone was like… ‘Oh, you should make me a coloring book,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, here you go,’ and one day they were like, ‘Oh, you should start selling it,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’” Lynch said.
As students work to expand their businesses, some go a step further and launch online platforms for their businesses. Joe Marinaro, a senior, and Charlie Damberg, a junior, run a peer-to-peer tutoring business called Elevate Tutoring. The launch of their website, www.elevatetutoring.net, was a strategic business choice to spread their message. “You have to be online in order to get some kind of attention, but also you have to be online in order to direct traffic, especially from referrals and stuff,” Damberg said.
Students at BSM work hard to keep their businesses afloat, whether only for the time being or potentially long-term. If they ever need support, or if any students have business ideas, BSM strives to provide an excellent incubator for student entrepreneurs. “When students have good ideas, they can kinda just run with it and get help with different places. If you have a business-related question, you can come to [the business department], or maybe work with someone in a marketing class or a different business class to get your idea into business,” Sabol said.
E.P.I.C. creates new careers
If students want to explore di?erent careers without the stress of starting their own business, they can try to get an internship through BSM’s new EPIC program. The program is young, but Mr. Steve Pohlen hopes to expand it in the future so every student can have access to an internship.
The internship program at BSM is a varied one, with multiple types of opportunities for students. Job shadows, internships, events, and one-on-one mentorships are the four basic options for students. “The idea is to give students more real-world experiences outside the walls of BSM… I think it helps students discover things about themselves that might determine what they would or wouldn’t like to do,” Pohlen said.
Right now, internships are based on recommendations by department. Students must be nominated for internships by their teachers in the department most closely related to the focus of the internship. At the beginning of the program, such selectivity is crucial to ensure long-term success. “What’s important when you ?rst start the program is to make sure it’s a good experience for the person that you’re partnering with, as well as for the student. And so we’re trying to make matches that are really bene?cial to both the student and the organization,” Pohlen said.
In the future, Pohlen aims to expand the program to all students once a solid foundation is laid. “I would love it if we got to a point where every student had one or two opportunities while they’re at Benilde-St Margaret’s to do some kind of an external piece to BSM that was really… meaningful to them, and really see the connection between the academics and the world that’s outside,” Pohlen said.