Open For Business

I really enjoy watching Shark Tank.  If you have never seen an episode of Shark Tank the basic premise is that budding entrepreneurs present a pitch to a group of investors (sharks), hoping to acquire an investment in their business idea.  It has everything you want in an entertaining television show:  intrigue, drama, comedy, tension and excitement.  Getting a shark to invest in your company requires that you have not just a good idea but also a solid business plan.  Some contestants walk away from the experience with an investment deal with one (or more) of the sharks, while many others walk away with no interest from any of the sharks.  This is true reality television; developing a successful business and getting others to invest in your idea and plan is not easy and often can end in disappointment.  However, I would imagine that those who do leave disappointed use the experience as a learning exercise and become even more determined to change or adapt however necessary so that they can be successful.  This is most likely the case with any current (or past) business leader.  When Steve Jobs, of Apple, passed away, he was remembered as one of the business world's greatest innovators.  However, his road to success featured many wrong turns and deep potholes.  Jobs took the lessons from his failures to drive his pursuit of success.   

This month many of our students will be in a similar situation to the Shark Tank contestants.  They are participating in an entrepreneurial program called TREP$ (short for entrepreneurs).  Students stay after school one day a week for a month to develop a basic level of financial acumen and then are charged with developing a business plan for an actual product.  The students, often working with a partner, then have to sell their product or service at the marketplace evening event.  Depending upon how the students market and present their products, students either make money or lose money.  It is a great program that creates a lot of interest and excitement within the school community.  For those that participate, it is an excellent learning experience that empowers students, rewards hard work and values creative and critical thinking. And like many Shark Tank contestants, not all TREP$ participants will achieve financial success.  This is okay.  They will, if they choose to, reflect on the mistakes made and the lessons learned to drive them closer to their goals.

On a recent episode of Shark Tank (linked below), two men asked the sharks to invest in their product, LockerBones.  LockerBones is a locker system and was invented by a father of a middleschooler, frustrated that she couldn't keep her organized.  I am confident that many of our students will watch this episode and say, "I could have done that!"  Yes, you could have.  Perhaps we will see the next "Lockerbones" at marketplace night.

"TREP$ is an awesome way to learn important business lessons, have fun, and even make money.  It is a great opportunity for kids to be taken seriously, so they can see people's reactions to their ideas, products, and creations."
-Robby R., Grade 8
I love Robby's line about being "taken seriously".  I think that it is a good reminder to all of us that our students want to be treated as if their ideas, thoughts, and opinions are relevant and when we do we often get from our students a genuine desire to achieve.  A desire that is not motivated by grades, pressure, or expectations, but driven by the sheer thrill to create, invent and innovate---and "make MONEY" (and not get eaten by a shark)!
TREP$ Marketplace Nights
Grades 7 and 8: February 19 and 20
Grade 5: February 26 and 27
SMS Cafeteria, 6:30 PM

Related Resources:
Shark Tank episode featuring LockerBones (skip to minute 23:00)
TREP$ Website

Doug Layman is entering his fourth year as principal of Sparta Middle School.  He was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and he vividly remembers his days at Valley Forge Middle School.  Mr. Layman resides in Sparta and enjoys taking advantage of the many outdoor pursuits and activities that make Sparta a great place to work and live.  

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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