Getting Down To Business: Students Compete at Virtual Enterprise Event
The Kern High School District (KHSD) teamed up with Virtual Enterprise International (VEI) to host the 25th annual Virtual Enterprise California Conference and Trade Exhibition on Jan. 17 & 18, 2024.
Young entrepreneurs from 71 California high school teams showcased their talents in several different student presentations and competitions during the two-day event at the Mechanics Bank Convention Center. In the end, teams from Bakersfield swept the top six places in the highly-competitive Business Plan Competition, qualifying them for the national VE tournament in New York this April.
VEI is a national non-profit that provides business classes for students. The students spend the school year creating and running their own companies with the same structures and functions of a real business.
Brian Miller is the Principal of the Kern High School District Regional Occupational Programs. He says this is a major competition with students building an enterprise from the ground up.
“You have your CEO, your vice president, marketing, your HR. And then there’ll be another team in charge of payroll, a team that’s in charge of the website, a sales team,” Miller said. “So they each have business roles within that company that they’ve created.”
Teri Jones, Western Regional Director of Virtual Enterprise International, says Virtual enterprise is an experience as much as it is a curriculum.
“The students ideate, create, and then operate the business all year. And they do it as a team,” she said.
Day one of the conference consists of the business plan competition, elevator pitch, marketing plan, rapid prototyping and more. Day two includes business plan finals and the trade show, where students set up a booth, create informational and design materials, and present their products and services to the public.
VE company leaders and community members served as judges. They were given virtual money to spend at the trade show, investing in student businesses. The teams were judged based on booth salesmanship, booth design, branding and more.
Bakersfield High School senior Ethan Taft says Virtual Enterprise is all about teamwork.
“This program is really great about teaching people about business. But more importantly, it’s how to work with a team. I’ve learned a lot of small level leadership skills that I wouldn’t have gotten in other programs outside of the classroom,” he said.
Taft is the CEO of MYNET, a financial education company that focuses on expanding financial literacy capability with students. MYNET reached third place in the business plan category and will be headed to New York for nationals in April.
“There’s a lot of great teams out there,” said Taft. “I’ve been very lucky to grow up in a program at BHS that has over a decade of success, so we’re hoping to carry on this mission.”
Bakersfield High School company MYNET.
Ileanna Salinas is a senior at Ridgeview High School and has participated in the conference and Virtual Enterprise classes for the past three years. She says her experience has given her confidence in her communication and public speaking skills.
“[Learning] how to show myself and present myself in a very equipped and educated manner has helped me grow so much in communication and networking,” she said. “I have learned many valuable skills that I will take on to whatever I choose to do in the rest of my life.”
Jones agrees, saying communication skills and confidence are two of the biggest things that students take away from this program.
“It’s astounding how well the students can speak and act afterward,” she said. “They have the ability to learn themselves, research themselves and the confidence to do it.”
Salinas is the CEO of her business Tiny Treasures, a baby company that focuses on infant safety as well as products and services. She said one of the biggest challenges was finding a need in the community and building a business around it. Tiny Treasures placed second in the business plan competition.
Ridgeview High School business Tiny Treasures.
Salinas says VE was there every step of the way to make sure all the students were supported.
“The program does an amazing job with giving us tools to help our students succeed,” she said.
Arvin High School Senior Jorge Meza is the CEO of his business team. They presented their idea of a vertical garden that you can keep indoors or outdoors in an urban setting. He says their product is versatile, sustainable and is a cheaper alternative to buying produce at the grocery store.
Meza says he got the idea of attending VE classes from his mother.
“She convinced me. She said it’s a wonderful experience, you get to meet new people, and I’m so glad I took her advice on that,” he said.
Miller says this competition is a great way for students to get hands-on experience and prepare for a possible career.
“It’s a good opportunity to really give them a real-world taste of working in the business world and see if that’s something that they’re interested in doing,” he said.
Taft says after his three years competing in VE programs, he might pursue a career as a business leader.
“Something that VE’s definitely instilled in me is that skills are transferable. Corporate leadership is a transferable skill that hopefully someday I’ll use,” he said.
The top eight VE firms and seven Human Resources and Marketing teams will advance to compete in the VE International 2024 Youth Business Summit this April in New York City.
Business Plan Competition Winners: MendTality, Centennial High School.
Kern County teams to place in this year’s competition are:
Business Plan Competition (top eight teams qualify for national tournament in April)
1st place — MendTality / Centennial High
2nd place — Tiny Treasures / Ridgeview High
3rd place — MYNET / Bakersfield High
4th place — ReVino Essentials / Stockdale High
5th place — Sansa / Ridgeview High
6th place — Edaptaware / Stockdale High
Marketing Plan Competition (top seven teams qualify for national tournament in April)
2nd place — ReVino Essentials / Stockdale High
5th place — Pure-O / Bakersfield High
6th place — MendTality / Centennial High
Human Resources Competition (top seven teams qualify for national tournament in April)
2nd place — ReVino Essentials / Stockdale High
4th place — MendTality / Centennial High
7th place — MYNET / Bakersfield High
2nd place — MendTality / Centennial High
1st place — MYNET / Bakersfield High
3rd place — Pure-O / Bakersfield High
1st place — ReVino Essentials / Stockdale High
By Katie Avery
Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.