Seven new shoe companies opened up in Montesano last week.
Students from Montesano Junior-Senior High School were taking part in the annual Kelsey Foundation Business Week. The Class of 2021 was divided into seven teams, or businesses. Among each team’s tasks included developing a product; marketing it; and using business simulator software to purchase materials, invest in marketing, ship products and manage their company. They also had to develop a separate product to market to “investors,” which were volunteers from the community who were given thousands of dollars in play money to invest in the products.
“Two of the biggest things that kids take away from this is there’s a place in business for everybody, artists, accountants, everybody has a place in business. But also that everybody has something to contribute,” Steven Poler said. Poler, who works for Edward Jones, a financial advising firm, has helped with Montesano’s business week since its beginnings six years ago. “I’m really appreciative of the school district for letting us do this. … It’d be really easy for a school district to say we don’t have time for that, but to recognize the impact it can have … .”
The students seemed to be having a good time and taking the lessons to heart.
“We grew a lot,” said Aydan Darst, general manager for Team Ivy. “In the beginning, a lot of us weren’t prepared to talk yet. And then as a group, we really came together. All the people who were really nervous about talking came out of their shell.”
Team Ivy took first place in the overall competition.
“I think this week taught me about teamwork,” said McKenna Wecker, who had several titles for Team Ivy, including social media manager. “Coming into it, I didn’t have many friends in my group, many people that I normally talk to. But by the end of the week, we’re all like a really united team. We worked together a lot.”
“I learned a lot about leadership. In the beginning it was kind of difficult because we didn’t know each other. But you can see now that we’re together and friends,” Team Soul CEO Brooke Streeter said. “This really gave you the whole experience of what businesses go through.”
The educators involved also see the benefits the program offers to students.
“We don’t have a lot of time in the classroom to let them work in groups and team,” business teacher Jill Schrader said. “For them to have this whole week learning to work with other people. That’s the real benefit I see.”
This year, the students are running shoe companies. During a walk through the various teams early last week, some students were discussing shoes that can grow as kids’ grow. Others were envisioning products to go with shoes, such as boxes that could help owners wash sneakers.
For the community advisers — volunteers who mentor the student-run businesses — it’s also a fun time watching the students learn.
“Business week is a very special week for students,” adviser Erik Kupka said. Kupka is a lawyer in Aberdeen whose kids go to school in Montesano. “It’s a hot mess for the first three and a half days. It’s frustrating. It’s chaotic. It’s absolutely frustrating. To watch it finally come together, it’s special. This is a special week.”