Approximately 70 students from Clarksville Junior High School recently received some real-world business experience thanks to a project called SPARK Initiative that was presented by University of the Ozarks’ business students.
The SPARK Initiative, in its second year, is sponsored by the student business organizations ENACTUS and Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), and involved U of O business students working with the local 8th graders to teach them about the basic principles of business. After being tutored for several days by the U of O students, the 8th graders split into small groups to compete against each other to develop a product as well as a business plan to sell the product.
The 8th graders “pitched” their products and presented their business plans in front of a panel of judges and their classmates on March 12 in the Boreham Business Building on the U of O campus.
“It was a lot of fun to watch these students use what we taught them to come up with a product and a plan to market it,” said U of O senior accounting major Whitney Lewis, who served as the SPARK project coordinator. “We taught concepts ranging from accounting to management to marketing, so we really tried to cover a lot in a short time. They took those concepts and did a great job relating them to their ideas.”
The 8th grade students were from Amanda Banning’s Career Orientation classes at CJHS. Banning said her students learned several valuable lessons from the SPARK project.
“For a lot of these students it’s the first time they’ve presented something in front of a large group of people, so it was a great experience for them,” she said. “Getting up and talking to a group and then having the judges ask questions and being able to answer those questions on your feet are the types of things that are required in the business world. The students also learned a lot about teamwork, which is another valuable business skill. They only had four days to develop a product and business plan, so it took a lot of teamwork to get there. I’m extremely proud of the students. It’s a wonderful project put on the University students.”
The 8th grade students not only had to create a product to sell, but they had to consider such things as product cost, payroll expenses, marketing tactics and company contributions to charities. The winning team, which won a $100 gift certificate from WalMart, developed a product called H20-plus, a water filtering and recycling system. The second-place team pitched their idea for a product called iPoddy, whose slogan was “The Smart Toilet for Smart People.”
“I was really impressed with the creative ideas that the students came up with,” said Lewis. “You could tell they really put a lot of thought into the product and the business plan and that’s exactly what we were wanting to accomplish. Hopefully, they will continue to use those concepts and skills as they become the business leaders of tomorrow.”