Although Agoura High School’s Small Business Management and Entrepreneur class helped develop two promising student-created companies this year, the elective may not be offered in the fall.
Principal Brian Mercer proposed removing the standalone course from the schedule in hopes of increasing enrollment and better positioning it as part of a multi-year “business pathway” for future students.
“It is not going away completely,” Mercer said. “The business management class will remain on the course catalog with the goal of building enrollment for this pathway.”
Mercer said a pathway is a sequence of classes that focus on specific skills “to give students the knowledge, hands-on experience and industry connections to pursue a successful career in the specialty industry of interest.”
The principal said the business pathway would include Microsoft Office and business management classes as well as the entrepreneur class.
Tech teacher Eileen Orth said although the class had suffered from recent low enrollment, the tide had turned this year and the class had reached its capacity of about two-dozen students within the first two weeks of school.
This year’s entrepreneur class managed to achieve several lofty goals.
The class is run by Orth and two volunteer Junior Achievement representatives, Anngel Benoun and Robert Rosenthal, helped the class develop award-winning businesses that landed the class double recognition at a recent Junior Achievement Student Entrepreneurial Challenge.
The USC Marshall School of Business took one student company, In-Sight Lenses, under its wing after the competition.
Orth said USC has offered to help the students launch their nonprofit, which aims to create low-cost eyeglasses using recycled lenses donated by optometrists. The prescription glasses, using frames manufactured by In-Sight, will be sent to people living in impoverished countries who cannot afford them.
The other half of the class won a Junior Achievement award at the competition for its business, Dress the Night.
Also a nonprofit, the dress company rents out formal wear to girls for special events—including proms, weddings and other galas—that demand the purchase of an expensive dress that might only be worn once or twice.
Students John Cutright and Anna Gyure, both juniors, said their group came up with many ideas for a business before they landed on In-Sight Lenses.
John said used lenses are thrown away by optometrists.
Anna said the company makes sense in more than one way.
“We could reduce waste while helping people,” she said.
For John, the team’s vice president of finance, the class has been life-changing. He had already earned his General Educational Development diploma and planned on leaving school early to either work or attend a community college. But the class energized him and he stayed at Agoura High. Next year John will attend Moorpark College and continue to build the In-Sight Lenses company.
Anna, the vice president of the company, said she is thrilled with the USC connection forged during the competition.
So far the student entrepreneurs have contacted many optometrists, and UNICEF is on board as a distributor once the glasses have been collected.
Another group, New Eyes for the Needy, will test the prescriptions at its facilities. The not-for-profit organization provides new and used glasses to people in need throughout the world.
Dress for less
Lauren Harrison and Amy Marshall, both juniors at the school, captured the Most Innovative Company award at the Junior Achievement competition for their business, Dress the Night.
Amy said the idea behind the company stemmed from personal experience. Girls often have to fork out more than $250 for formal-wear for a variety of events, including the prom, she said.
The small-business team daydreamed about how great it would be if they could rent couture gowns for a night rather than shelling out money for a dress that they would only wear once.
The plan for their business was born.
Lauren and Amy contacted designers at showrooms in downtown Los Angeles.
“We knocked on all doors,” Lauren said. “We were successful with all of them.”
The girls were given 30 European designer dresses to launch their company.
With prom around the corner, Lauren and Amy are ready for their first run in dress rentals. They’ve set the price at $40 for four days. The money will be used for dry cleaning and seam repair before for the next round of rentals.
Next steps include establishing a bank account for their business, launching a website and building on a marketing plan that will pay for photographs of models wearing the gowns.
Amy is heading the marketing programs for Dress the Night and has been spreading the word through social media channels like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I’d love to make it something big,” said Lauren, the company’s CEO.
Hope to continue
Benoun and Rosenthal, the volunteers for Junior Achievement, are hoping the school will keep the class open based on this year’s success.
“From our perspective, this is an incredible experience,” Rosenthal said.
Benoun said she thinks the administration didn’t realize how successful the class was this year.
“It started at 14 (students), but then was at full capacity in two weeks,” she said. “Decisions were based on past results, not on the current (success).”
Orth hopes the school will have a change of heart and keep the class open.
“Our two companies were chosen out of 19 schools to participate, and only 10 companies were chosen to compete at the actual challenge,” she said.