Young entrepreneurs turn ideas into scholarships

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, July 2, 2014

COURTLAND—Several Southampton High School students are $500 richer after pitching their business ideas in the first Junior Achievement of Greater Hampton Roads’ Be Entrepreneurial Competition.

Southampton Career Services Program students formed together in two teams to look at the community, gauge what business opportunity might be successful, and come up with a business plan for their fictitious business.

“I was very impressed with the way they did research and gathered info,” said one of the program’s specialists, Karen Powell. “We were just there to support and help them fine tune the information they gathered.”

The teens gathered information through reviewing census data, and also just taking a broad look at the area. Both ultimately decided that they wanted to do something about obesity, and the businesses from both groups involved a gym.

They also received help from Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce’s F.U.E.L., the young leaders group. F.U.E.L. got involved two years ago with junior achievement.

Meghan Councill, the group’s vice president, was a volunteer with the program who also made the trip to Norfolk State University for the awards banquet.

“This semester, the entire focus was on the competition,” she said. “First we came up with the ideas, and then we walked through the process of how to write a business plan. To me, the idea phase was the most interesting.”

Councill, who is an investment executive with Davenport & Company, said hearing what the students saw when they looked around the community was enlightening.

“They saw that a lot of people are overweight in the community,” she said. “And they both came up with fitness center ideas that are viable.”

The first group wanted to create a 24/7 gym, AllStar Fitness.

“A lot of their parents were shift workers, and they wanted to create a gym where time was not an excuse,” Councill said.

The second group had an idea that was more geared toward the children in the community.

“They wanted to create the S.T.E.M. Gym,” Councill said about a gym that incorporates elements of learning, specifically science, technology, engineering and math. “One said to me that when they go home after school, that there was nothing to keep them active. They wanted to create an environment where they could have fun and work out while also learning and not even realize it.”

The night of the awards was tense for Councill and the groups.

“Well, I’m sitting with the teachers, and all of the kids are in a row in the big auditorium at Norfolk State,” she said. “The teacher and I are literally holding hands as they are announcing the runners-up. When they are getting ready to announce the winner, we both look at each other nervous.”

Then the judges announced that there was a tie.

“I started smiling,” Councill said. “Both groups from Southampton High School had tied for first place. We immediately jumped up and were shouting and clapping.”

Powell said on top of the ideas, she also thought the win was about presentation.

“I could tell when we showed up that our students were two of the best dressed teams, and I knew that was a plus,” she said. “They presented their presentation in a professional manner, and they also had props. The S.T.E.M. Gym group had water with their logo on the label. The 24 hour fitness group had juice because that was one thing they wanted to provide.”

With the tie for first place, the students also each took home a $500 scholarship to apply toward college.

Powell said that she and Desiree Key, the other career services specialist, have been thrilled to have FUEL on board, as well as the other community organizations that help them out with their program. The program helps with workplace readiness skills, they provide internships, summer work and also tutoring services.

“I think one of the strongest things about our program is the partnerships we have established in the community,” she said. “If you haven’t worked with career services, it may be something that you want to enquire about. It gives students wonderful opportunities to be interns, or in having summer jobs at their establishments.”

The Career Services Program is grant funded through Opportunity Inc. of Hampton Roads and provides workplace readiness skills to Southampton High School students.

The Career Services Program has been in existence for ten years providing workplace readiness trainings, internships and summer employment opportunities to juniors and seniors.

During June’s “Night of Success” the program celebrated the achievements that all the participants had made throughout the school year. Four students who had not only achieved but excelled in all four of the program’s focus areas received a laptop computer.