Entrepreneurship at MSM
Students have many opportunities at Mount St. Mary Academy to develop their skills beyond the traditional classroom. In our entrepreneurship program, Academy Scholars, students participate in a hands-on curriculum through which they build and run their own small businesses, allowing them to learn and engage in creativity in an exciting way. MSM student businesses include both real products and virtual businesses, and are affiliated with two international programs: Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and Virtual Enterprises International. Our entrepreneurs have sold products locally, regionally and nationally. They have participated in business workshops across the United States and in Canada, Europe and Asia. They have also competed successfully both nationally and internationally, winning U.S. and global honors for their work as young entrepreneurs. Collectively, they have networked with fellow teen and adult entrepreneurs, corporate and nonprofit executives, academics, elected officials, and international leaders. Most importantly, they have developed the creativity, leadership, problem-solving and communication skills that are so vital to building an interesting, high-impact life and career.
Freshmen in the Academy Scholars program engage in a series of individual and small-group projects designed to help them explore creativity applied across different fields. They also develop teamwork and problem-solving skills, which prepares them for the spring of freshman year and the beginning of their sophomore year, when they begin building their own business concepts. In this start-up stage, students identify ideas they would like to explore, problems they would like to solve, and issues they wish to address. They work individually and in small teams to brainstorm solutions, and then develop a service, product or program around those solutions. Students with start-up ideas have access to a mini-grant fund that helps them explore and experiment with concepts. If they move forward with their business idea, they can also apply for more funding through our mini-loan program.
Ultimately, students make a choice during sophomore year to either start their own business or social service project, join an existing business, or participate in our virtual business program.
Exploring Start-ups Through SAGE
Over the past few years, Mount St. Mary students have started more than a dozen businesses, including our in-school cafe Thunder Zone, a social marketing firm, an essential oils-based room spray company, a publishing company that produced a cognitive coloring book for Alzheimer’s patients, two nationally recognized student bakeries, a record label and concert promotions business, a canine treats and dog-toy maker, a leadership program, and a nonprofit that collects clothing for women in need, among several others.
These real-life businesses, if they choose, are able to compete each spring in the national SAGE competition. SAGE, which stands for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship, is a California-based nonprofit that supports student entrepreneurs around the world. One of the key elements of SAGE is building businesses around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
MSM student businesses have competed at SAGE for the last six years, winning five national championships and placing as high as third internationally at the SAGE World Cup. They have presented and networked nationally in San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh, and competed internationally in South Korea, the Philippines and Ukraine.
Engaging in Corporate Work with Virtual Enterprises
Virtual Enterprises International is an in-school business simulation program which focuses on college and career readiness by providing students with an understanding of business and workplace challenges. Through the Virtual Enterprises program, students create a virtual corporation that sells a product or service. They oversee all aspects of the business, from accounting/finance and human resources to marketing and IT. Students use virtual currency to buy and sell products with other firms throughout the world.
MSM’s VEI teams have consistently placed among the top in the country. Our former firm Essence, and its predecessor Enviroscentals, sold an array of virtual scent-based products. The team won VEI’s Northeastern championship for five consecutive years, and competed against the top student executives from around the country at the organization’s National Business Plan Competition in New York City. The team then translated its virtual success to an actual product-based business that became one of the top SAGE student enterprises in the world.
Our new firm, a virtual clothing and design company called Fly By Fashion, was recognized last year at VEI programs in Los Angeles and New York City for their marketing prowess. Fly By Fashion won top awards for booth design, salesmanship and video commercial.
Building Skills and Connections
The week-to-week life of a Mount St. Mary student entrepreneur involves consistently developing and refining products and services, developing and expanding targeted marketing efforts, focusing on cash flow and expenses, and making sure that all members of a business are engaged, challenged and heard. They also meet with guest speakers and work with business mentors, both in person and virtually, who have reached the highest levels of their field. Our Academy Scholars’ contacts have included major media executives and corporate CEOs, former members of Congress, social entrepreneurs, a leader in 9/11 recovery efforts, start-up experts, and business consultants.
All Academy Scholars students receive training in the Creative Problem Solving process, which uses strategic brainstorming to develop innovative ideas, and they also have the opportunity to opt into a leadership certification program.
The goal of Academy Scholars is to empower students to think big, create, problem-solve, adapt, and achieve — and to embrace that those skills form an ongoing process that requires grit and resilience.
We welcome your questions and ideas regarding the program and would love to chat more. Please contact Mr. Tim O’Shei at firstname.lastname@example.org.