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FHS, BHS students try virtual business

Sixteen of Ryan Shoup’s Farragut High School business education students and nine from Bearden High School teacher Jim Friedrich’s “virtual enterprise” business program were among 125 Knox County pupils who spent Thursday, Feb. 15, learning business management basics during a day-long session at Pellissippi State Technical Community College’s Hardin Valley campus.

VE classes simulate business management methods under guidance from a classroom teacher and business partner. The VE program, begun at BHS in 2006, familiarizes students with various business career paths, helps them understand global economics and demonstrates practical uses of business technology.

Shoup said there are aspects of business no textbook can teach, and that’s why the day at PSTCC was well spent.

Larry Rossini, director of Knoxville’s Tennessee Small Business Development office, told students — who also represented Karns, Carter, Central, Halls, Fulton and South Doyle high schools — their seminar presence was important.

“You have the young minds for our future,” Rossini said. “We need you to carry on the business tradition here in Knoxville. Your participation will help you decide whether you want to do that.”

Helping Rossini offer students a whirlwind business primer was Joe Andrews, TSBDC senior business specialist. The two earlier had scrutinized business plans, formulated by business classes — then had critiqued the plans to help pupils improve planning skills.

Rossini singled out BHS planners as having “done a good job, especially with market analysis” portions of their plan. He added: “Good market analysis will win you awards every time.”

Rossini also complimented FHS students on their business plan; but he urged revisions to separate its marketing and advertising functions.

Shoup, the FHS business teacher, said the session gave his students a “great overview of detailed issues” involving business operation. Some of those, such as the daunting number of regulatory forms and excise taxes, he added, were “real eye openers” for prospective young entrepreneurs.

VE courses, Shoup said, help knit together varied business aspects — from corporate management and production to accounting, marketing and advertising design.

Afternoon sessions, in which pupils were paired with business executives, offered even more detailed insights into business realities, Shoup said.

Andrews told students they first must decide whether they had the physical and emotional stamina required to start their own business, whether they were skilled at getting along with people of varied personalities, whether they possess basic business skills and whether their proposed service or product fills a need evident in their target marketing area.

Andrews said aspiring business owners often are reluctant to write a “dreaded business plan,” but he emphasized the importance of thorough planning and said lenders would not capitalize a new business that lacked a thorough plan.

“Lack of planning is the main reason a business fails,” Andrews said. “Many go out of business, not really because they run out of money, but because they didn’t plan what to do, if their money ran out. Every business has inherent weaknesses. A good plan identifies its weaknesses and potential problems.”

For example, Andrews said, many Knoxville businesses lost money in 1992 when a blizzard halted commerce, especially downtown. Few, he said, had planned how to contend with cash-flow interruptions lasting weeks. He also recited the “Five C’s of credit” — character, capacity, capital, collateral and (market) conditions.

Students, later in the day, broke into business specialty groups — aspiring chief executives, chief financial officers, human resources specialists, administrators, those with production, marketing and advertising interests and the newest discipline: “web mastering who use computer skills to advertise and market products and services.”

FHS students attending the day-long session with Shoup were Rachel Bellich, Blake Bickel, Nahil Elajam, Perry Griffin, Stephen Guerrette, Richie Harklerod, Michael Hoag, Ben Hyman, Taylor Jetton, Jeremy Johnson, Kyle Leko, Bryan Simmons, Tyler Swift, Joseph Watson, Anthony Wilson and Andrew Wolfe. FHS business students unable to attend Thursday were Max Aggad and Tobi Galindo.

BHS students attending were Kayla Benner, Michael Verkasi, Daane Blocksma, Louis Davis, Hannah Kelley, Martn Hooie, Dane Jensen, Hunter Owens and Paul Adams.

Students later met with Sahfi Keisler, president and chief executive officer of Keisler Engineering, who introduced them to executives from Keisler’s accounting, human resources, production and marketing departments. Each discussed their job responsibilities with pupils who were most interested in their business specialties.

Rossini called it “a great day of entrepreneurial information” for Knox County students.

“Hopefully,” he added, “this could turn into a regular event throughout Tennessee next semester.”


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