ELYRIA — Making a business is all fun and games until you have to get into the details. And no one learned that more on Wednesday than a group of Life Skills High School students.
About 15 students from the Life Skills High School came together in three teams to present their business ideas for the first business competition at Lorain County Community College.
Each team presented vastly different ideas for local businesses to a set of judges, ranging from a cupcake shop, a recreation center for at-risk youths and a clothing store. The school is an alternative educational facility for students who struggled in traditional school settings. The students had three weeks with the help of NEO Launch program coordinator Matt Poyle to rehearse a pitch to judges who would choose the best one.
The students needed to know important details, including their audience, how much money they’d need to start with, and the cost and pricing of their products.
The competition is a partnership between Life Skills High School and Lorain County Community College’s NEO Launch program, which usually is geared toward college students. NEO Launch is a program funded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation of Hudson, which invests in organizations and institutions that foster entrepreneurial spirit.
Valerie Howard, Life Skills’ community engagement specialist, said students learned important things such as leadership, research, teamwork skills and how to focus their passions.
“I think with students being able to be their own boss, it dictates where they can go and how they can achieve what they’re trying to accomplish,” she said.
The program, she said, is also a perfect way to inspire the students to take part in more of the economic development in Lorain County.
The judges consisted mostly of business and organization leaders, including Janet Cooper, executive director of Reach Success Inc. in Cleveland; Jevon Terance, owner of Jevon Terance Boutique in Lorain; the Rev. Charles Howard, pastor of God’s Kngdom Church in Lorain; Steve Bush, CEO of Men of Color Mentoring Organization; Mark Ballard, Lorain school board president and chief executive officer of WNZN Power; and Jeanine Donaldson, executive director of Elyria YWCA.
Gopher Bakery and More was chosen as the winning team with the catchy tagline “I could ‘go-pher’ one of those.’’ The name, team member Skylar Isaac said, came before the business. After they chose that, they discovered it worked best with food, eventually landing on a bakery. Isaac found that making the presentation wasn’t too hard and in fact helped her figure out details like product pricing and location.
“I’ve always wanted to have a business, so with this it helped to push out how to figure out how to have one,” she said.
Each of the five team members received a trophy donated from Randall’s Team Shop in Avon Lake.
Life Skills CEO Jim Blair wanted to bring the partnership with LCCC together after learning about the program in December. Life Skills’ Valerie Howard said she’d like to see the program implemented in all high schools in the area.