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Program teaches Enid students how to run a business

Posted 1:01 a.m. Monday

— In August, Enid High School was picked to be a guinea pig.

The national nonprofit Youth Entrepreneurs, founded in 1991 by Charles Koch Foundation, provides business and entrepreneurial education across the country.

Enid Public Schools is the first district in the state to use the foundation-funded program, the Enid News & Eagle reports (http://bit.ly/2f7RPCe ).

"This is not a class, technically," said YE Program Manager James Tully. "This is very interactive, teaching about markets, the economy and owning your own business."

The program hosts activities to teach about costs, pitching, and it hosts market days where students run a one-day pop-up shop business and other items — students learn about anything from the cost of running a business to strategy.

"Your business may be a success or a failure," Tully said. "We don't want you to be afraid."

Starting in December, students will buckle down to begin focusing on a business plan, product and branding until March.

Thomas Rowe, EHS geometry teacher, manages the program and class of 19 students.

Rowe said the program has done well and the students enjoy the different activities.

"Last week, they had to practice networking skills," he said. "They are learning how companies are valued. Now we start to get into the focus of developing a business plan and starting a business."

One group of students started a T-shirt company, Rowe said. The students built a website, had growing sales but closed pre-sale orders too soon. The group soon learned by closing pre-sales off too soon, the product exceeded a reasonable purchase price. Rowe said the students learn by letting them go.

"We've created an environment, a safe place where it's OK to fail," Rowe said. "You learn from failure and you have to be willing to take a risk. It's not just business but a mindset of seeking opportunities for the betterment of others."

A former civil engineer in California who ran a business in Enid before teaching, Rowe said some of the concepts take a couple of tries for students to grasp, but they are handling it very well.

Rowe said students are learning "entrepreneur" doesn't only mean owning your own business, but it means having an attitude of seeking better opportunities even within an existing business.

"Several students haven't figured their alignment of passion and how to do that in business," he said. "Students have to be actively engaged versus being fed information. They has to research a company, figure out the strengths and weaknesses — found internally — and opposition and threats — found externally. They will have to translate that when they do their own business."

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