Middle School seventh-graders are proving that you’re never too young to start thinking about entrepreneurship. Our teachers know that even 12-year-olds have the potential to accomplish incredible feats while gaining hands-on learning experiences. After all, these students will one day create, innovate, and push the world forward through their own businesses, products, and ideas.
To support these important learning opportunities, Middle School integrated studies teacher Kendall Shoemake launched a special project this spring focused on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and what it takes to build a successful business from the ground up.
The unit is called “The Business Game.” Drawing inspiration from the popular TV show Shark Tank, Mr. Shoemake’s unit required students to design and develop a business model that could be pitched to a panel of investors. Working in teams of three, students were tasked with creating a business plan that captured and highlighted their product design, marketing strategies, and business operations. Throughout the unit, students had the opportunity to hear from guest speakers with experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, leadership, and more. The unit concluded with a formal pitch event where the budding entrepreneurs presented their plans and products to a group of “sharks'' who asked questions and critiqued the student’s work.
“At this stage in their learning, students are beginning to transfer knowledge, skills, and understanding to a novel and relevant future,” Shoemake says. “Whether the students pursue a career in entrepreneurship/business or not, The Business Game is a great introduction to strategic and innovative thinking, management skills, and working collaboratively to bring ideas and passions to life.”
With creative concepts ranging from retail companies with a charitable cause to a sticker business for school laptops, each student-developed business plan included a detailed business description and summary with mission statement, vision, and values, along with a compelling logo and tagline. Like any business, each company had to fulfill a specific, unique need. Each group included a CEO, product designer, and marketing manager who carried out different tasks to bring the business to life. They were also asked to create a comprehensive product overview, market analysis, marketing strategy, and a financial analysis with projections. The young, intrepid entrepreneurs showcased their ideas with confidence and promise.
To provide students with real-life inspiration, a group of distinguished professionals were invited to share their own experiences navigating the complex and exciting world of business. Among several guest speakers was Angela Sandler, CEO and founder of xplor St. Louis, who competed to be on the Shark Tank show and created Kidzpreneur, a business pitch competition for children in the area. Similar to The Business Game, Kidzpreneur focuses on entrepreneurship and youth in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Sandler spoke to the group about her journey to success and offered valuable insights for delivering their pitches. Students were also able to hear from Reshma (Chattaram, C’07) Chamberlin, co-founder and chief brand digital officer of Summersalt; Lucia De Paz (US’96, C’00), Principia College Director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; College Director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Principia College; Stuart Jenkins, founder of BLUMAKA; Allex (Sammuli, US’12, C’16) Jesper, social media specialist at Principia School; and Principia Head of School Travis Brantingham (US’94, C’98).
As Principia strives to create a curriculum and experience that fosters a culture of active inquiry and critical thinking, The Business Game is helping equip students to thrive and succeed in college, work, and the “game” of life.