Nearly 200 Wiregrass high schoolers got a taste of the business world Thursday at Troy University’s first Youth Business Summit, held at the Dothan Campus.
The day-long event featured workshops, competitions and speeches by TROY faculty members, alumni and business leaders.
“The premise of the Youth Business Summit was to bring high school students to the Dothan Campus, because so many of them have never seen our campus and don’t realize what’s in their backyard,” said Carmen Lewis, Assistant Dean of the Sorrell College of Business. “The second piece was to expose the area high school students to different aspects of business, such as entrepreneurship, human resources, financing and accounting. We’re trying to couple that information with an educational program and hopefully they can see what options are available to them that will get them on a career path of their choosing.”
Two competitions took place as part of the summit.
The first, a financial competition, began two months ago with students pairing off into groups to manage fictitious investments and attempt to grow their portfolios.
The second, the Business Plan Competition, involved teams of students creating a business plan and then presenting it to a panel of judges in a manner similar to the TV show “Shark Tank.”
The winning team, which came from Geneva County High School, won a $2,500 scholarship to TROY.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Brea Murphy, a Geneva County High School junior who served as team leader. “We’ve worked on this for several weeks. We didn’t know anything about business, but then (our teacher) reminded us we have our own business already and we’ve done it.”
Murphy and her friends started a photography company, DawgPrints, last fall and have already turned a profit through a variety of photo shoots.
“We worked so hard on this competition, and I’m so proud of all of us,” Murphy said. “It’s like a reward for the hard work that we’ve done.”
The team’s teacher had just as much pride in the students’ achievement.
“It’s so exciting, because you try to plant the seeds and nurture them, but it’s on them to make it actually happen when they get here,” said Jessie Hendrix, business education teacher at Geneva County High School. “They practiced and presentations in front of their peers and faculty, and it really helped them prepare, so this was exciting. It’s also exciting to see them grow and to be excited about business.”
Murphy said she enjoyed hearing other business ideas and presentations, and the summit gave her some new perspectives on entrepreneurship.
Hendrix described the event as an invaluable resource for local students.
“I thought this was a great opportunity to give these kids great exposure to business and different occupations they hadn’t had exposure to,” Hendrix said. “It’s been a huge event for us to attend to legitimize our business program at our campus. It makes it so much more real, what they’re doing, and it gets them out of their comfort zones. It helps prepare them for the real world and things they’re actually going to have to do once they graduate.”
The event is expected to continue on a yearly basis, including the scholarship competition.
“Plans are to next year continue with the competitions, grow the summit and invite even more students,” Lewis said. “Scholarship opportunities are so important to our students, because we see now more and more students going into debt because of their education. We want to help these young people make the determination sooner about what path they want to take.”