Last week, 11th grade students from Raymond, South Bend, and Willapa Valley had the opportunity to participate in Washington Business Week (WBW). Its seventh year in Pacific County, more than 100 local students participated in the five-day long event, which culminated in a "Trade Show" and "Stockholders Presentation" on Friday, March 27.
The mission of WBW is to help young people realize their potential through interactive learning experiences by partnering with local business owners and experts. To provide a realistic structure, students are divided into "companies", each with their own Company Advisor, a local volunteer or business expert. By creating companies that are a mixture of students from each school district, students learn how to work as a team, network, and collaborate with new people in a real world setting.
Throughout the week, the students participated in a business simulation program, allowing them to make business decisions regarding a fake company that sells music players. By strategizing production, marketing, quality, and prices, each company competed to have the most successful business in the simulation.
In addition, companies worked together to invent a product and a marketing strategy for that product, which they presented at a trade show on Friday. At the trade show, local business owners and volunteers participated to judge the invented products. Volunteers were given fake money, or "business week bucks" to hand out to the companies they wanted to buy stocks from and invest in. The company that garnered the most fake money won.
Willapa Harbor Business Week has been made possible year after year by local volunteers, including Ian Farrell, Quality Manager at Ocean Spray, and Scott McDougall, Deputy Director at Pacific County Emergency Management Agency. Farrell, involved in Business Week since it's inception, explained that each year community members who volunteer always comment that they are "blown away" by the performances of the students.
"To me that's the big thing - those of us that run this program know that they can do it from day one. We hold them to that standard and expect them to excel. If you treat a student like a kid who's going to misbehave that's what you'll get. But if you treat a student like a professional, that's what you're going to get," Farrell said.
Farrell and McDougall work with the coordinators of Washington State Business Week to continue to bring the program to Pacific County because of the impact they see on the students.
"I see the confidence and the empowerment that the kids gain from having this experience, these ideas and decisions, and how they take just this little seed and blossom over the course of the week into people who are almost unrecognizable from the students they began as," said McDougall. "That never gets old for me. It never gets old to see the looks, smiles, and absolute enjoyment on their faces when they get to the end of the week."
Two companies stole the show at the awards ceremony on Friday. Company #6 with Company Advisor Gracie Manlow (Teen Advocacy Coalition), CEO Abril Silva and Ryan Overstake, Gracino Torres, Alyssa Hodgson, Katie Sisk, Bryson Fitch, Josh Medina, Nick Moreno, Chris Winrich, Harper Johnson, and Anna-Tereza Luna won 1st in the business simulation and 1st place overall in Business Week. Company #5 with Company Advisor Chris Halpin, CEO Tessa Wilson and Brandon Douillard, Corbin Borg, Caleb Doyle, Robert Espina, Jordan Frank, Alison Funkhouser, Travis Harbill, Jillian Karlsvik, Taci Madsen, Maria Mosely, and Kassidy Nissell won 1st place in the Stockholder's Presentation and the Trade Show.
Willapa Harbor Business Week is always interested in recruiting volunteers. Visit their Facebook page, "Willapa Harbor Business Week", or contact Farrell or McDougall for more information.