Virtual Enterprises International South Carolina

It is often said of New York City that, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”  At the VEI 2013 Youth Summit,  young entrepreneurs from three South Carolina schools set out to make it big and prove they have what it takes to make it anywhere.  The students are part of Virtual Enterprise International (VEI), an innovative business education program that allows students to create, own, and operate their own businesses in a simulated environment.  As participants in the Youth Business Summit, sponsored by the New York Life Foundation and HSBC Bank, students had multiple opportunities to display their business acumen and prove they have what it takes to succeed in the fast-paced business world.

The Youth Business Summit is the signature event of Virtual Enterprises International because it offers students multiple opportunities to show what they know.  Through the Summit’s three major activities — the National Business Plan Competition, the Global Business Challenge, and the International Trade Show — students demonstrate their skills, knowledge and diverse talents in entrepreneurship, communications, computer technology, and global business management; each key components of the VEI program.

The National Business Plan Competition, one of the most prestigious and rigorous business plan competitions for high school students nationwide,  is a competition that challenges VEI students from across the country to demonstrate their global business expertise through written business plans and oral presentations.  It highlights best practices, rewards excellence, and trains high school students to apply sophisticated knowledge and skills attributed to business professionals and college students.  Firms pre-submit written business plans and have two opportunities to present and defend their plan to a panel of Fortune 500 executives.  The top six teams qualify for the national final round.  Chocolate Couture, Destination Food Nation, and Southern Splash, three innovative firms meeting different market needs, earned the right to represent South Carolina by virtue of their showing at a State qualifying event in January.  When the dust had settled South Carolina had recorded its most successful showing at the Summit in the program’s 12-year history.  Southern Splash from White Knoll High School who had made the event as a wild-card qualifier earned a third place finish while Greer High School’s firm, Chocolate Couture who earned 1st place at state competition, placed 6th.  Prior to this year, no team from South Carolina had qualified for the national final round.

One of the unique events at the Summit is The Global Business Challenge (GBC), which allows an opportunity for VEI students to experience the global economy and develop expertise that will be critical as they move forward in their education and careers. In early March, students received a business case study on Starbucks and had the opportunity to read and review case and examine the challenges, opportunities, and risks facing the company.  On the morning of the event, students were randomly assigned to a multinational team of 6-7 students and were tasked with solving a series of complex business situations using their combined knowledge of the company.  Over 200 students participated on 25 teams in the competition from eight states and six foreign countries.  The mission for each team was to analyze company data, identify relevant information for the assigned task, and prepare a solutions-based presentation to industry partner judges.  Each team had 2.5 hours to complete this task.

As the teams worked, judges observed and evaluated students on performance, professionalism, and effectiveness.  At the end of the 2.5 hours, teams were required to make a 10- minute presentation to judges, and then navigate 5 minutes of case related questions.  In addition to the criteria of teamwork, teams were rated on their analysis of the company, the strategies they recommend, and the strength of their answers to judges’ questions.  At the conclusion of the event, South Carolina had three students who played key roles on winning teams.  Richard Handler from Greer High School took on the role of team leader and guided his team to 1st place.  Jackson Tipton, also from Greer, played a key role on the team that placed 2nd while Jordan Walker from St. James High School was on the 3rd place team.

The Summit’s events concluded with The Virtual Enterprises International Trade Show, an event that allows students from around the world who participate in the worldwide network of VEs to exhibit a wide range of products and tout their marketing campaigns.  From the moment, the trade bell rings, until the final nanosecond of the closing bell, 150 businesses were racing against time to log sales of highly desired goods and services to increase their bottom line and sustain their virtual employees’ lifestyles. CEOs, Marketing Directors, and Sales Managers from VE companies around the world and across industries had spent months priming their sales force with positive thinking, planning their marketing strategies, building their displays, and devising innovative ways to outsmart and outsell the competition.

The final awards of the week are earned at the trade show.  Students competed in various competitions related to the event including Best Booth, Best Sales Pitch, Best Web Site and Best Catalog.  Once again, South Carolina firms earned recognition in multiple categories led by St. James High School who earned 5th place finish in Best Catalog.  Schools receiving Honorable Mention (Top-10) finishes include Greer High and White Knoll High in Best Catalog, Best Web Site, and Best Sales Pitch.

Virtual Enterprise is a growing program with over 500 firms nationwide and 31 firms in 25 schools in South Carolina.  With a curriculum aligned to Common Core and NBEA standards, the program prepares students for the world of work ahead of them.  Countless alumni can attest to the quality of the education VEI provides and the role it plays in preparing them for future success.  This program is designed to prepare the business leader of tomorrow today.  If you are an administrator interested in adding VEI to your course offerings or a business leader interested in mentoring young entrepreneurs contact Dr. Christine Haff, South Carolina and Southern Region Director at chaff@veinternational.org