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An Incubator for Young Entrepreneurs

Principia is lighting the spark of business ingenuity in Middle and Upper School students. The Middle School’s “Business Game” and Upper School’s Launch Party and Pitch Night are cultivating the spirit of entrepreneurship—along with the skills and mindset needed to begin and sustain a successful business.

When a creative spark ignites a fire, a newfound passion is discovered and an idea is brought to life. This is the thrill of launching a business. At Principia School, students are experiencing firsthand what it’s like to start a business and think like an entrepreneur, using their creativity and ingenuity to create something special. 

The Middle School Business Game

Middle School integrated studies teacher Kendall Shoemake is leading an entrepreneurship unit that lets students explore what it takes to launch a successful business. Over the course of a few weeks, students design and develop a business model—a strategy that includes their product design, marketing tactics, and operations plan. The unit concludes with an exciting “Shark Tank”-inspired event where students pitch their products and services to a panel of business “sharks” who critique the students’ work and give feedback. 

From Principia’s own Grubhub food delivery service to charitable businesses with a cause, students developed creative concepts with care. Business plans include a mission statement, vision, and values, along with a compelling logo and tagline. 

Throughout their Business Game project, students work with experts, entrepreneurs, and business owners who share valuable insight with the budding entrepreneurs and unique perspectives gained from their own experiences.

“I enjoy being independent and using the lessons learned from the speakers to build something of my own,” says seventh-grader Eli. 

Guest speakers include Angela Sandler, CEO and founder of Xplor St. Louis, who competed to be on the Shark Tank television show and created Kidzpreneur, a business-pitch competition for children in the area. Sandler offered valuable insights into delivering pitches. Students were also able to hear from Stuart Jenkins, founder of BLUMAKA; Allex (Sammuli, US’12, C’16) Jesper, marketing writer and social media specialist at Principia School; and former Principia Head of School Travis Brantingham (US’94, C’98).

Principia College Director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lucia De Paz (US’96, C’00)—another of the expert speakers—encouraged students to embrace curiosity, let go of fear, and take solace in opportunities to pivot and learn from mistakes. “Don’t be afraid to fail and have fun with the process,” she says. “The faster you fail, the faster you learn.” 

Upper School Entrepreneurship

Make your way through the halls from Middle to Upper School, and you’ll find similar innovation taking place among the older students. Lindsay Bryan’s Entrepreneurship 1 class spent weeks prepping for the highly anticipated Launch Party on March 3—a market-style event where students sell their products and services and polish their sales pitches.

“Entrepreneurship teaches students to look at the world with a new perspective,” Bryan says. “They’re learning to think creatively about problem-solving and it’s been really interesting to see kids break through roadblocks. You don’t just stop when you face an obstacle—they’re having blunt conversations with one another about how to find solutions and looking for ways to grow their knowledge in areas they lack confidence or skills.”

Several students have a service element incorporated into their businesses. First-year students Ava and Avery created the Period Project, a charitable business that collects feminine hygiene products for girls and women in need. Another group interested in STEM is creating children’s toys using 3D printing. Some are taking their skills and partnering with real-life businesses and organizations to provide deliverables and/or collaborate on projects. One student interested in art and graphic design collaborated with Equifax to create the artwork for an award being presented by the company. These are just a few examples of student passions turned into businesses.

Pitch Night is the culmination of the unit. Students bravely take to the stage to share what they do and what their strategies are, compare their projections to their profits, and explain what they might do differently if they could go back and do it again. The “sharks” decide who did it best and project organizers give out other awards and recognition to standout businesses.