Entrepreneur challenge provides student platform
Hillsboro sophomore Jessi Dalke says the May 1 Kansas Entrepreneur Challenge was an opportunity to grow her photography business.
“Whether you do well or not, you’re getting yourself out there,” she said. “People come to see it, and then they hear about you.”
Dalke participated in the event in Manhattan after winning the county competition. She participated in a two-minute elevator pitch, trade show, and mock boardroom. Whittling down her business strategy into a two-minute pitch was tough, she said.
“It’s difficult figuring out what aspects of the business to discuss,” she said. “In my elevator pitch I only had two minutes do I had to figure out what to say, and what people like to see.”
Jessi said she had experience because she competed last year.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I got more confident speaking in front of the judges. Even just growing the business, it’s easier to talk about when it’s a bigger business.”
Students from Hillsboro have continued to the state competition three times in the past five years, said Nathan Hiebert, Hillsboro’s business entrepreneurship teacher.
“During their freshman year, we challenge them to try and start a new business,” he said. “We go through a business plan and talk about the elements of entrepreneurship.”
Team size varies, but they usually have one or two members, Hiebert said.
“They’re selling and creating things; they’re actually doing that,” he said. “Some do really well with it. They flourish and take off. Others hit road locks with sales or customer contacts.”
Taking portraits of girls near her age is Dalke’s favorite because they have a lot in common, she said.
“It’s easy for me to understand them and it’s a lot of fun,” she said.
One of the benefits to doing well at the county competition is that Jessi said she has money to start saving toward a camera of her own.
She didn’t win last year’s competition, but she was still earning money with the business.
Students in the entrepreneurship class keep 70 percent of profits, and the remaining 30 covers Hillsboro’s expenses for the class, Hiebert said.
“That’s a unique aspect of our program,” he said. “Students can actually leave class making money.”
Since students are running businesses, they end up using class concepts in a hands-on manner, Hiebert said.
“It’s not just memorizing concepts and doing well on a test,” he said. “That hands-on learning can be very specialized to each student. It allows them to find interest areas they love and are passionate about.”
Passion was key for Dalke, who said she picked up on photography naturally.
“I’ve always been pretty artistic,” she said. “Then my mom bought a good camera a few years ago and I taught myself how to use it.”