Shawano, Bonduel students learn skills at business challenge

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Mentor Ryan Alexander, left, consults with Bonduel High School students Abigail Palmer, Colin Wussow and Mark Bodreaux during the Junior Achievement Business Challenge held Wednesday at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Shawano campus.

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Bonduel High School students, from left, Owen Wilcox, Zach Manning and Brent Pieper look at what has happened to their business as a result of their latest decisions as their mentor, Art Bahr, looks on.

Twenty-nine students from Shawano and Bonduel high schools got a taste Wednesday of decisions made daily by business executives and managers.

The Junior Achievement Business Challenge, held at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Shawano campus, allowed students to put to use what they had learned in business classes. As leaders of fantasy companies for a day, the 10 teams of two or three students each made decisions that could help or hurt their bottom lines in the computerized simulation.

Students on the winning team earned $500 scholarships through Junior Achievement; the runners-up received $250 scholarships. The top two teams advance to the state competition in May in Sheboygan.

Results of the challenge were not available by the Leader’s press time Wednesday.
More important than the scholarships, though, was the opportunity for students to get real world experience and learn what business leaders have to deal with on a regular basis, according to Sandi Ebbinger, director of Wolf River District Junior Achievement.

“It’s a fun day for them, but they also have some stake in succeeding,” Ebbinger said. “They get, as best as we can supply, to understand running a real-world company and seeing the consequences, looking at the research you do and the money you spend.”

Each team of students was assigned a volunteer mentor from a local business.

Students also got the opportunity throughout the day to listen to area business leaders talk about entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful in today’s business world.

Ebbinger said it was important for students to get a clear idea of what they would need to do if they decided to become the leader of an existing company or to build their own business from the ground up.

“Not everybody fits the qualities of a businessman,” she said.

The business challenge encompasses all three tenets — entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness — of Junior Achievement, Ebbinger said.

Students were having a good time, and although they were eager to win, they were just as eager to learn.

“It’s gone pretty well,” said Jarrett Laatsch, a student at Shawano Community High School. “There were a lot of decisions to be made during the challenge.”

“We had to decide whether to keep our products at the same price or change them based on what the other teams were doing,” said Cole Nelson, Laatsch’s teammate. “We also had to determine what people wanted, so there was some research and development.”

Laatsch, Nelson and teammate Levi Johnson said they were undecided whether they would go on to start their own businesses based on the skills they learned during the challenge, but it gave them some food for thought as they plan their lives after high school.

“This helps us decide if we really want to do this,” Johnson said.