As interest in entrepreneurship grows, so do student businesses and their benefits.

Michelle Lee

Staff Writer

Disclaimer: All mentions of the included groups are intended to add to the article’s story. Any indications of promotions are unintentional.

    What do you imagine when you hear the word “business”? The answer most likely consists of one or more of the following: office buildings, salaries, projects, workers, CEOs, experienced adults. Nowhere on that list does it say students. The reason? Most people believe that students are too busy, students need to focus on school, students need to study for their classes.

    That all may be true, but who says you can’t have businesses and school in the same world? Certainly not the students. Janine Wang (11), for example, began her own corsage and boutonniere business, Nine Corsages, in her sophomore year.

    “I originally planned on making corsages and boutonnieres because I thought that that would be a cool thing I can DIY and then sell. I call it Nine Corsages after my name, which has ‘nine’ in it,” explained Wang. “I mainly started it just for fun just to see how it went. Then, the charity part of it was afterward where I was like, ‘Hey, I’m earning this money. I might as well donate a part of it.’ Last year, I donated [some of the profits] to Red Cross.”

    This year, Wang has once again decided to donate a percentage of her profits, but this time it’s for American High. Half of her earnings will go to prom funds as well as to the student councils of 2019 and 2020.

    Of course, to donate your profits, you need to make a profit. To make a profit, you need to form a business. The steps to do so range from planning to creating to advertising. This is when your business transforms from a figment of your imagination to reality.

    “The main part of it was the pre-planning process…Prom season is only that one short period of time. I think I spent the entire winter break [of last year] planning how I wanted it to look like and how to make corsages,” said Wang. “Part of my planning process was to make sure that it looked appealing and different from other corsages. [Another] big part of it was the marketing part.”

    When marketing is successful, the business will attract customers who see what they want in the products. Juliana Wu, an alumnus of American High, is one of these customers.

    “I heard about it through Janine’s Facebook post,” described Wu. “Janine’s ordering process was very streamlined, her prices are reasonable, and her designs were well-suited to the aesthetic I was looking for.”

    Even as a customer, Wu knows and agrees with the idea that having students run their own business is beneficial.

    “I fully support students who have taken the initiative to start their own businesses. It is respectable that they have the drive to execute their ideas.”

    Unfortunately, running a business isn’t always smooth sailing. People need to start somewhere, and that somewhere might be at the bottom.

    “Janine started the corsage business with limited materials in [her] inventory as to control the budget,” said Mr. Andy Wang, Janine’s father. “Sometimes her forecast and inventory prediction is not [estimated] correctly. That will lead to a disaster to deliver merchandise in the upcoming due days, and then we have to rush to the supply store right away.”

    Being a student who still attends high school is also a factor that could collide with the business’ activities and cause concern.

    “I did hesitate when she announced that she wanted to start a corsage business because I [was] afraid that it may impact her school work,” revealed Mr. Wang.

    “During AP season, I had orders coming in while I was studying. Then there were late nights trying to make them,” recalled Wang. “[The issue] was mainly just time management. Right now, actually, I’m facing some of that…I’ve been trying to make time to make the corsages.”

    Luckily, it is possible to overcome obstacles, and Wang did so with her parents’ support.

    “I am so proud of Janine that she really did accomplish something that I think it is extremely hard–even for an ordinary adult–to achieve in the real world. She is able to provision, design, [take] inventory, forecast, and especially make a great product that all customers [approve] of,” praised Mr. Wang. “She also surveyed each customer [for] feedback for future improvement. That is the key to success in any business: CUSTOMER FIRST is the key.”

    Alongside Wang’s art-related business, another business that depends on the customers is baking. Kenneth Cacacho, an alumnus of AHS, is familiar with the business process as well when he ran his baking business, Sweet Route, a catering company.

    “I wanted to start this bakery because it was always my passion to be in the kitchen and I was so curious where all the delicious food came from. After practicing and testing recipes, I soon realized there was a demand for what I cooked and baked which made me start Sweet Route,” said Cacacho. “I learned so many things about business and baking on the job and I see it as practice for what is to come in the future…I wanted to apply my skills into something completely new that I would grow from the ground up.”

    As he built his own company, he received assistance from both of his parents. Together, they worked to reach perfection for future plans, and then go beyond that.

    “My mom always emphasized quality and made sure I produced the best possible products that tasted amazing. My dad helped me on the business side with recording the finances and expenses on the business which was super helpful.”

    Even with various forms of assistance, he, too, went through some difficulties.

    “A hardship was balancing this business with school and track and field. There were many times where I stayed up very late and did not have the proper time for homework and studying,” described Cacacho. These problems, however, were balanced out with his successes. His sacrifices turned into rewards. “The best success was seeing people I didn’t even know and getting to meet them through Sweet Route which [showed] how much this business has grown.”

    Because he is attending college, Sweet Route is no longer active. Despite his decision to put his company on hiatus, Cacacho’s experience in Sweet Route has still been helpful to his potential future in business.

    “I learned the importance of having a strong relationship with your customers and listening to them…In order to maintain a successful business, the entrepreneur needs to love what they do and do what they love,” concluded Cacacho. “Right now I am focusing on professional-related opportunities in entrepreneurship by applying to intern at companies.”

    Businesses that make products and sell them aren’t the only types of enterprises in the world; there are also non-profit organizations in the making. Austen Liao (11) is currently assembling an organization called On the Same Page which collects and donates books to countries with children in need of them.

    “Since we were kids and growing up, we were given a lot of books that were more for little kids. We get a lot of picture books, we get a lot of easy books. Right now, they just sit on our shelves gathering dust, and there’s really no point to them,” said Liao when revealing the influence behind his idea. “We know that there are people in places all over the world that actually really need English books. We’re trying to take the books we don’t need and give them to those who do.”

    Liao plans to make On the Same Page an official non-profit organization. Doing so requires steps that may differ from typical businesses run by students.

    “There’s the basic stuff like the people that are in it and if there’s any connection between them. There’s a conflict of interest that they want to avoid. If you’re expected to gain any money, you’re expected to write that down too,” listed Liao. “If you’re something special like a hospital or a school or a church, you have extra forms to fill out. If you’re a corporation or a non-profit, you need bylaws and articles of incorporation, which are basically rules that your company needs to follow throughout its lifetime.”

    An aspect that does connect non-profit and for-profit organizations is finances. Possessing a budget–whether it came from personal funds or donations–allows the organization to carry out its intended purpose.

    “You need finances for the stuff that you do. If you’re non-profit, you can get grants more easily because any money that’s donated to a non-profit is tax-deductible, so there’s more of an incentive to donate to a non-profit because you’re not actually losing money,” said Liao. “It’s not rare for companies to donate to non-profit organizations.”

    At the moment, Liao’s organization is still undergoing the process for official establishment. As of now, he has written out the bylaws and articles of incorporation, and he has spoken with lawyers for further advice. Once he completes all of the required forms, his idea will be confirmed as an active non-profit organization, which Liao hopes to accomplish by summer.

    “I just want to donate as many books as possible. We’ve been focusing mainly on the U.S.–because we’re in the US–and China and Taiwan because we know people there so it’s easier. If we do go through this, I’m going to do [the organization] stuff first and then my schoolwork.”

    While running a business, you don’t just gain money. You can also gain skills and experience necessary for navigating through life, whether that life is in school or in the real world.

    “A clear understanding of business, marketing, and entrepreneurship is likely to ensure success regardless of which industry a student chooses as a career,” stated Ms. Cecil-Hunter, who teaches Marketing as a Mission Valley ROP course. “Winning and thriving in a successful and satisfying career is both essential to survival and self-actualization. All workers, whether they are a CEO or a ditch digger, must be prepared for the challenges of the working world.”

    In addition, according to the article, “Why Every Student Needs to Receive Entrepreneurship Education,” from Medium, “Much like reading, writing, and basic arithmetic, basic entrepreneurial skills are quickly becoming necessary to successfully move through the world. Increasingly, we as a society are placing a premium on self-promotion, innovation, and creative problem-solving…It creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence and stimulates the economy.”

    Because of the world’s gradual acknowledgment of the support provided by business activities, students are becoming more aware of the value of entrepreneurship. While some turn to becoming entrepreneurs, others attend classes that look into the roles of marketing.

    “[My class’s] purpose is to help students develop an understanding of the marketing field, which touches every aspect of a product from its development to its sale, promotion, distribution, and pricing,” explained Ms. Cecil-Hunter. “Students are taught interpersonal communication, and they have ample opportunities to work in project teams and learn the value of effective customer service and interpersonal communication.”

    Outside of classes geared towards marketing matters, students can utilize the communities formed by school clubs for a better understanding of the work that must go into the field. This can be helpful if you’re seeking to expand your knowledge of business or simply improve your current skills.

    “Business has a lot of branches that you don’t really see. Most people focus on the sectors of finance and marketing, but there’s a whole compilation of stuff that goes into it,” said Sahil Jagad (12), a previous officer of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). “It gets you into new topics and you understand, like ‘Oh, this is interesting. I want to go into this.’ For example, I took the marketing pathway in entrepreneurship. Most people take finance because of money, and they’re good at math.”

    “It engages people with different passions to work on revolutionizing a multitude of industries that affect our everyday lives,” added Rohit Mishra (12), an officer of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). “Also, learning about how businesses work really propels our ability to turn our creative abstractions into feasible projects.”

    Clubs that focus on business and marketing aim to challenge the students involved and lead them down paths toward future businesses with more preparation. Whether the students use that to become entrepreneurs and open up student businesses is up to them.

    “There’s a lot of competition–same thing for business too. In business, you have to stand up and make a name for yourself because that’s the only way you’re going to be successful,” stressed Jagad. “Finding a unique problem and having a unique solution that’s easy and convenient but also profitable at the same time is extremely hard.”

    Being exposed to businesses and the responsibilities they pose allow students to be more receptive and ready for future business involvement. The options that have been mentioned so far include establishing your own business, taking part in business-related clubs, and, now, joining currently existing companies, even if the role is not very serious yet.

    “I encourage students to seek a part-time job to expose themselves to the work environment,” suggested Ms. Cecil-Hunter. “Further, involvement in career technical student organizations such as DECA, FBLA, SkillsUSA, and HOSA provide education, support, leadership, and competitive opportunities, which prepare students for entrepreneurial pursuits and careers in business.”

    Over the years, students have been encouraged to partake in business and entrepreneurship. The more experience they gain and the more risks they take, the smoother the transition from high school to the real world where careers are heavily business-based. Students don’t have to face requirements for involvement either, such as being the top of their marketing class or working with every club on campus.

    “The cool thing about business is that it’s not like other areas where experience is a heavy aspect of success,” explained Jagad. “Be charismatic, witty, and think ahead, and your growth curve will be very, very steep. All it takes is one creative idea and a friendly persona.”

     Mr. Wang also offered his encouragement and advised, “If you have a business idea in mind, just think it is like a school project then just GUNG-HO–go for it. Even if the ending result is not as pleasant as the original ideal dream, it is you, as the young adult, who really [made] it by yourself to the finish line.”

    Sure, success isn’t guaranteed. Sure, not all roadblocks can be anticipated. This, however, doesn’t equal saying that success is impossible and that roadblocks can’t be passed.

    As Mishra put it, “embrace failure and learn from it.”

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