Budding businesses pitch at Lowe’sPublished 9:01pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — Ross Beatty Senior High School students Dominic Forbes and David Danzy say they believe they have found a niche with their online business, Beast Mode Comics.
The seniors — who are also cousins — offer customizable comics services. A customer sends a comic idea to them, and they create the comic, giving the writer the credit.
“Nobody’s ever offered this kind of service to make your own,” Danzy said.
The students presented a business plan Tuesday to Jack Strayer, director of marketing and development for the Expo Arena at the Berrien County Youth Fair, at Young Entrepreneurs Day at the Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis. Strayer reviewed the plan and gave them feedback.
Forty high school students from Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Marcellus and Edwardsburg attend the annual event to present business plans to a selection of local “reviewers” — entrepreneurs, retirees and Southwestern Michigan College staff.
Karen Vaickus, teacher of Dowagiac Union High School’s semester-long entrepreneurship class, brought nine students Tuesday. She works students hard to develop business plans because of the class’ short duration.
“I get them, and right away I try to give them the basics, and get the business plans started,” she said.
Vaickus encourages students who are tentative about presenting their plans due to fear of failure or public speaking. She brings in past Young Entrepreneurs Day participants to talk about the experience so they are inspired to attend.
“This is my favorite day of the whole year,” she said Tuesday.
“Every person you meet could be used as a bridge in the future,” she advises her students.
The Edward Lowe Foundation, whose namesake invented cat litter, funds the annual event in partnership with Lewis Cass ISD.
Students with the top plans receive $50 savings bonds, although the focus of the event is not competition.
“All four districts believe this is such an incredible experience,” said Joan Forburger, director of career and technical education at Lewis Cass ISD.
Forburger said many students seriously consider following through with their business plans.
“Even those who don’t, they learn a lot,” she said.
Sarah Dye, small business management teacher at Edwardsburg High School, had two seniors and three sophomores participate.
Dye said the idea is to “take this dream, and — knowing its risk — they get to network and learn team-building.”
She selects students for Young Entrepreneurs Day who excel in her class or who are very passionate about their business ventures.
“Sometimes as an entrepreneur, we have to think outside the box,” Dye said. “As kids get older, they forget to be creative.”
A Young Entrepreneurs Day for Berrien and VanBuren county schools will be held May 8 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center in Benton Harbor.
‘The River Tweed’
Students at Young Entrepreneurs Day play “The River Tweed,” a team-building exercise in which they maneuver wooden boards to cross an imaginary river. If they let go of a board, it is taken away. The game encourages participants to “think outside the box.”
Manager of program development Dino Signore, who led the game, said the most important resource for entrepreneurs is “money.”
“When you run out of money, your business is done,” he said.
The following is what some students learned from “The River Tweed” Tuesday:
“We have to be careful of the resources we have.” — Jalen Brooks, Dowagiac
“ You can’t do it by yourself.” — Cheyenne Tucker, Edwardsburg
“Keeping track of your time … your deadlines are important.” — David Danzy, Cassopolis