Westminster’s newest entrepreneurs are self-motivated and tech-savvy — and they’re also students at Mountain Range High School. Juniors in the school’s branch of the National High School of …
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Westminster’s newest entrepreneurs are self-motivated and tech-savvy — and they’re also students at Mountain Range High School.
Juniors in the school’s branch of the National High School of Business are launching three local businesses as part of a semester project.
“From a really young age, I was always looking at `jobs who hire at 13,’ `jobs who hire at 14,’ ” said Faith Bochert, 16, an MRHS junior who was chosen to be CEO of one of the class companies.
“I was looking because I was interested in getting a jumpstart on my life,” she said, “and this is providing a great opportunity to do that.”
The school has provided each of the three businesses with $500 in startup money. The students will develop business ideas, create their products and sell to their target markets before the end of the semester. Any profits will go back into the High School of Business in the form of funds for extracurricular activities or a scholarship for future students to attend the high school.
Although the project is a school activity, the students are not excluded from the strict requirements that come along with running a business.
“They have to comply with all of the district regulations and policies,” said Hilary Wimmer, an MRHS teacher and professor at Front Range Community College. “The students will have to get permits if they are required.”
Colorado law requires all businesses, even those operated by minors, to obtain necessary documentation from the government. However, Denver City Council passed legislation in September to waive licensing requirements for “children’s neighborhood beverage stands,” which must be run by someone under 18 and operate 84 days or fewer per year.
Inspired by this legislation, state Sen. Angela Williams (D-33) plans to introduce 2019 legislation that would allow minors to operate many kinds of “occasional businesses” without a permit or license, she said.
The legislation has yet to be drafted, and Williams has not yet determined the criteria for an occasional business. However, the Northeast Denver legislator predicts these businesses will be limited to 84 operational days, as they are in the Denver council bill.
“I just think it makes sense for us to encourage children — not discourage them — to be successful entrepreneurs,” she said. “The earlier we can expose them to that, the better it is for their futures.”
According to Wimmer, such legislation would be a welcome change for students like hers.
“I would definitely recommend (passing the legislation),” she said. “The process to open a business is overwhelming for adults and even more so for students.”
Looking to the future
Several of Wimmer’s students said the new legislation would likely have positive implications — not only for their school but for other schools interested in sponsoring similar programs.
“In education, many stay away from ideas that will cause people to say `I don’t know,’ ” Bochert said. “They don’t want to get in trouble and don’t know what’s allowed.”
If legislation were passed, “it would inspire” other schools to engage in entrepreneurial projects, she said.
The other class CEOs —Talia Rotella, 17, and Monika Swiderski, 16 — agreed, stressing the project’s importance.
“The only way to know what kind of problems we’re going to come into, or to know what kind of people we need to reach out to, is by actually doing it,” Rotella said.
“It opens you up for a lot of opportunities and you get to learn things that not a lot of kids our age really know about,” Swiderski said.
The students are in the beginning stages of their businesses, conceptualizing product ideas and delegating roles to teammates. They expect the project will be a large time commitment throughout the semester and into the future.
“I’ve been interested in finding a way to be an entrepreneur on a small scale,” Swiderski said. “I would like to see where this idea goes (after the semester ends), if it’s successful and if it’s worth it.”
Rotella and Bochert said they also plan to explore options of keeping their businesses open come January. Bochert, who is considering creating a marketing agency for small businesses in the community, hopes to keep the business alive even after she leaves MRHS.
“What I want to do is mentor a younger student,” she said, “and once I’m done, they can take my place and bring in their own people.”
As they plan ahead for college, the students said they see a business school and, perhaps, entrepreneurship in their futures.
“I want to be doing something important, and I could definitely see myself trying to do that with my own company,” Rotella said.
But for now, she said, “I think that opening yourself up to as many experiences as possible as a teenager is the best thing you could do for yourself.”
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