“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain
Planting the Seeds of Entrepreneurship
Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. Walt Disney. Sam Walton. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos.
Many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have come from America, fueled by the inventive spirit that defines us around the world, and a societal structure that gives us the freedom to pursue our dreams. Their success has powered our nation’s economy, both literally and figuratively – helping to make the U.S. stock market the greatest wealth-building machine in history.
It’s that same inventive spirit that Upper School AP Economics and Investment/Entrepreneurship teacher John Daly creates in the Dr. Albert Cohen Family Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Mr. Daly leads a class for juniors and seniors that is somewhat non-traditional, or disruptive – the hallmark of entrepreneurial thinking. In the span of just one school year, he blends a hybrid of lessons in personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship challenging students to create a business plan for something that doesn’t yet exist.
It all starts at home, so to speak, with lessons on personal finance. The goal of Saint Andrew’s Upper School is to “prepare students for success in college and life,” and Mr. Daly’s program does just that. Following the academic focus on experiential learning at Saint Andrew’s, students aren’t just instructed on personal finance, they live it.
The first segment of the class has students competing in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. The premise is that students begin the program by acting as recent college graduates, in their first job, with an income over $40,000 per year. They have to make decisions about how they can manage to budget for life, balancing the cost of selecting an apartment, transportation, credit cards, retirement and 401K investments, food and entertainment, and the cost of paying –or not paying – their bills on time, among others. If they have a cellphone, can they afford an insurance plan? Can they afford to replace a lost or broken phone if they don’t have insurance? They learn about deductibles for car and renter’s insurance. These are all financial decisions that factor into the competition.
In 2017, more than 4,000 teams across the country competed in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Mr. Daly’s lessons clearly paid off, as teams in his class came in third and sixth nationally. Individually, one student placed fourth nationally in the competition with over 20,000 students.
“I encourage students to use an Excel spreadsheet to track and monitor their budget, adding income and subtracting expenses, just as many families do every day,” said Mr. Daly.
The second segment of the program gets more involved, as students learn how to make the most of their savings. The first lessons focus on banking, with explanations of investment tools like CDs, Money Markets, Mutual Funds, stocks, bonds, commodities, options, and even emerging investment vehicles like cryptocurrencies.
That’s where the next challenge comes in. Students are given a role as a virtual portfolio manager, using an investment simulation program called StockTrak. The program requires students to create a diversified portfolio, mixing stocks, bonds, commodities, and other investments. Students need to develop and adhere to an investment strategy that takes into account risk tolerance and geopolitical events. Students will sometimes need to retool or rethink their strategies.
All this leads up to the KWHS Investment Competition, a worldwide competition sponsored by the Wharton School of Business where students are given a fictitious client with a given financial profile. Acting in teams, the students must come up with an investment strategy that meets the client’s needs. The team has to submit two reports that demonstrate their investment strategy by trading in up to 11 different sectors. Winning teams are invited to present at the Wharton School.
The third and final segment of Mr. Daly’s program connects to Junior Achievement of South Florida and its “Spark Tank,” a student version of the TV program Shark Tank. Saint Andrew’s students compete against other high schoolers in developing a business. The program is all-encompassing, including everything from raising capital, setting up marketing and advertising campaigns, developing a supply chain and managing inventory, and sales. In the end, the students liquidate the company and make their presentation that includes an annual report before the Spark Tank team. Winners go to Washington, D.C. to compete in a national competition.
Throughout the year, the students get insight from South Florida’s most successful companies and their leaders who serve as local mentors; some of whom are alumni or parents of Saint Andrew’s students.
Students also compete against other independent school students by developing and presenting a business plan in a competition sponsored by NFTE. Students at Saint Andrew’s first compete against each other and then go before panelists who select the winning team at an event on the Saint Andrew’s School campus. The winning team then goes to compete against other independent school students in South Florida in April.
The Cohen Center and its flexible classrooms are an ideal location for Mr. Daly’s class. Students can easily collaborate in workgroups, they can use the Kessler Digital Media Institute to help create commercials and advertisement for their products. Flat screen TVs can bring up stock tickers and business cable channels, and an advanced video-conferencing system allows for presentations from speakers around the country. They can even keep an eye on Shark Tank, where one day, students may be watching one of their own.