High school business students attend 2016 Young Entrepreneurs Day

Honor Credit Union’s Jessica Kehrer (right) shares her thoughts with Dowagiac Union High School students Kelly Rafferty and Christian Bryant, who had presented her with their business plan for an outdoor supply store. The students presented these proposals, which they have been working on since January in class, as part of Tuesday’s 11th annual Young Entrepreneurs Day, held at the Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Honor Credit Union’s Jessica Kehrer (right) shares her thoughts with Dowagiac Union High School students Kelly Rafferty and Christian Bryant, who had presented her with their business plan for an outdoor supply store. The students presented these proposals, which they have been working on since January in class, as part of Tuesday’s 11th annual Young Entrepreneurs Day, held at the Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

While the staff of Cassopolis’ Edward Lowe Foundation normally welcomes high-powered business leaders to the retreat center’s wooded confines, instructors Dino Signore and George Nelson worked with a different kind of entrepreneurial-minded group of students Tuesday.

This group of students were, well, students, from high schools around Cass County.

The business development group once partnered with the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District to host the 11th annual Young Entrepreneurs Day that morning. Nearly 20 students enrolled in business courses at Dowagiac Union High School, Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School, Edwardsburg High School and Marcellus High School participated in the event, developing team-based skills and earning feedback from a number of area business professionals on the business plans they had developed in the classroom over the last several months.

While one group of attendees presented their ideas inside, Signore and Nelson ran another batch of business students through the foundation’s “River Tweed” activity, where the students were tasked to work together to cross a stretch of field without making contact with the ground. They instead were only allowed to touch a handful of wooden boards that must be passed back and forth between participants.

The activity, the capstone of a program the Lowe Foundation instructors conduct with business leaders on a regular basis, was meant to demonstrate the importance of working with others as a team and with managing essential resources as a business owner, with the wooden boards serving as an allegory for these resources, the instructors said.

“The high schoolers work better as a team than the CEOs do,” Nelson said.

While the lessons are changed slightly to accommodate the younger group of learners on the field that day, the focus on leadership and teamwork is something that will benefit the business students later in life, especially those who continue to pursue business ownership, Signore said.

“We do this because it’s in our backyard,” Signore said. “We like entrepreneurship and we want to encourage it with our kids.”

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