Archive » June 30, 2011
ˇFRESH! IDEAS FOR 21ST CENTURY STUDENT
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
He wasn’t really certain what to expect from the class, but a giant check and a trip to New York would not have even ranked as a far-fetched guess.
Riley Huffman took Santa Ynez Valley Union High School’s new entrepreneur class because of the two electives left when he went to register, it seemed the most interesting. He finished the class with a second-place finish in the regional competition, earning himself a chance to compete on the national forum.
“It was a really good class. I’m so glad that I took it,” says Riley, a rising senior.
“Designed to provide students with entrepreneurial skills and exposure to all aspects of starting and operating a small business, students learn how to utilize business management and marketing principles to make decisions in the sale of goods and services,” says principal Mark Swanitz. There were to be two sections of the class, one focused more on the math skills, and one focusing more on the business skills.
The combined math/entrepreneurship class is designed to give students who have difficulty with math a forum to learn math skills in a real-world context. Students, like Riley, with a strong math background were to have access to a class focused more on business, with the assumption they didn’t need to have the math component explained, says Suzzanne Phipps, who teaches both. “I didn’t think I was going to be in the math section,” Riley says, but scheduling conflicts arose. He wasn’t the only one. This left Phipps to come up with creative ways to combine both classes into one cohesive enterprise.
In the end, Phipps gave a CEO experience to her advanced students who ended up in the math-based class. Early on, they either helped tutor other students or corrected papers, in much the way a manager would make sure the employees under them understand the parameters of their jobs and oversee their work. Once the class as a whole was far enough along in the curriculum, the advanced students worked independently to cover the business focused chapters of the book that Phipps leaves out to cover the math curriculum. Think of it along the lines of a CEO working on business development, she says.
“As it turned out, the solution we came up with ended up great for both groups of students,” says Phipps. “It was not how it was set up, but it worked.”
For Riley, it worked well indeed. Beginning in the spring, students were assigned the task of creating a product or service-based business of their choice. “My assignment was to create a business plan I could realistically carry out,” Riley says. To equalize student’s technical abilities, all students use the same PowerPoint format, choosing only the colors, graphics and technical data to be inserted.
Students had to research all the technical data unique to their enterprise. Part of the job was to verify that their brainstorming resulted in an idea for a business or service they could actually carryout given their present location, skills and resources.
Riley designed a health-conscious Mexican food stand he named ˇFresh! Drawing on his experience working at restaurants, he saw the need for a place to eat that has higher quality than local fast food choices and, at the same time, less expensive than traditional sit down restaurants. “My real motive was to come up with something that would serve my community,” he says.
Riley admits he first toyed with the idea to start a restaurant, but his research showed that rents were simply cost-prohibitive. “That is where the idea of a portable burrito stand came from.”
“This is what the class was all about,” Phipps says. “They had to do the research.” Sometimes that meant giving up on “dream” jobs and choosing a more realistic one instead.
The reason for a burrito stand instead of a restaurant is simple: There is little overhead and there are no unaccountable expenses, Riley explains. Besides, he says, “I can make a burrito in like 10 seconds,” and has practiced it enough to prove it.
Riley isn’t actually going to try starting his business, because his research also showed that he would end up making just about the same income as he already earns at the job he does now. He has no misconceptions regarding how much work a start-up business entails. And while his idealistic side would love to give it a go, Riley’s realistic side tells him now might not be the moment.
In his plan, Riley locates ˇFresh! in front of Albertsons in Buellton and/or in front of the baseball field in Santa Ynez. This, he says, is because a lot of people at the games want to be fed, and they only serve hot dogs at the concession stand. Riley wrinkles his nose at the idea of eating hot dogs.
On the way home from presenting his project, the class stopped at a fast-food restaurant to eat. Riley abstained, says Phipps. He walked to the grocery store nearby and bought something healthy instead. He believes others will choose a healthy option if it is readily available, tastes good and isn’t too expensive. Riley talked to a lot of people at the baseball games to find out what they would most like to see.
He doesn’t believe that either proposed location would object, as neither location serves similar items. He wouldn’t really be competing with them.
ˇFresh! will offer tacos, burritos, wraps and grilled sandwiches with a choice of beef, fish or free-range chicken. Every item will cost $8. Riley won’t sell drinks, as those are readily available at either location. If he keeps it simple, he can keep it fast. Besides, Riley says, he’d have to carry all that much more if he served drinks. Riley also has a plan where people can call him with an order – with a fairly large minimum required – say $10, and he will cook the food at his home and deliver it.
At the culmination of the project, students in the entrepreneur class presented their business plans to a panel of local business men and women. The winner, in this case Riley, represented their high school at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Business Plan Competition at Fresno State University.
Eleven high schools from the region competed. Riley finished second overall. He now goes to New York City in October to compete against 33 students from 22 states for a $10,000 cash prize. Riley will need to raise the money for his mom, his teacher and himself to attend.
At the June school board meeting, Riley’s accomplishments became the subject of discussion. The class project is one of the new 21st Century class projects the school is trying to build upon. That Riley placed and was invited to the next stage – something historically left to only first-prizes winners – “is amazing, as this is the first time we’ve offered the class,” says superintendent Paul Turnbull.
The ever low-key Riley smiles, and shrugs his shoulders. It seems to him more a question of the obvious than of his unique talent. “There is a lack in this Valley of places to eat that are between fast food and the more traditional sit-down restaurants,” he says.
For the moment, it looks like it will stay that way. Riley says he would consider opening ˇFresh! as a way to finance his trip to New York, but he doesn’t have the start-up costs. Anyone wishing to contribute should contact the high school.