Home-schoolers get schooled in business
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Kaitlyn Walker likes to pump up her kicks.
Case in point: The once-upon-a-time, plain-white canvas shoes she wore to the GCU New Business Development Center training for home-schoolers.
They’re GCU purple. One shoe declares, “GCU.” The other shouts out, “LOPES!”
Walker painted the Walmart canvas shoes herself. She makes them for her friends for their birthdays.
“I like to paint,” she said.
Simple as that.
And, as simple as that, those are the seeds for a business.
Find something you care about – don’t be driven by money alone – and turn that into a business, said Malik Rivers, a GCU business entrepreneurial studies graduate, Canyon Challenge finalist in 2016 (an annual business-plan competition for University students and staff), the founder of TailSpace, which puts digital screens on the back doors of tractor-trailers as an advertising platform, and the speaker at the first campus gathering for the home-schooler-focused, business-development training.
The seven-week series of entrepreneurial trainings is a collaboration between the New Business Development Center, which makes its home at the Colangelo College of Business, and GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances, which supports kindergarten through 12th-grade students and educators with programs, events and grants to foster a college-ready culture.
The trainings also are serving as a pilot program for the NBDC, which is testing out an online entrepreneurial training program.
NBDC Director Eduardo Borquez said the center has received requests from several cities in the West Valley to bring these workshops to them, out in Goodyear or Surprise, for example. He thought that if the center could put together an online model of what it usually does – the center has offered entrepreneurial training, in English and Spanish, to the community surrounding GCU – then that would be a way to help.
“How do we leverage technology so we could support those individuals?” Borquez asked. “… There’s this technology we want to test.”
The home-schoolers spent their first week watching videos of Borquez give the same training he offers to any other group seeking help from the NBDC. They were able to see his PowerPoint presentation, and they also received an email.
“It’s a welcome to Week 1. Here’s a link to the video, and homework is attached,” Borquez said.
The students had seven days to complete the homework and then headed to campus Thursday morning to meet with the NBDC’s student ambassadors for a two-hour, on-site session based on the center’s business purpose canvas, a road map that takes entrepreneurs from an idea to a plan that’s a little more developed – something more than going straight from an idea to opening a business.
The students, whose ages ranged from 13 to 17, discussed such concepts as Conscious Capitalism, value proposition, distributor channels and customer relationships.
A lot of the students participating in this pilot online business development program are already business-minded, said Sheila Jones, Strategic Educational Alliances and Donate to Elevate Program Manager.
“Five of those seven have their own nonprofit,” Jones said of the Hoffa siblings – that’s Sophie, Walter and Leo Hoffa – and the Piatt sisters, Hannah and Heather Piatt, who formed Youth for Troops in April.
“We help veterans and their families,” Heather said. “… We do things like care packages, events and work with the Patriot Guard.”
“We’ve always had a passion for helping veterans,” Hannah added.
Another home-schooler at the training, Connor Hack, had a business idea in mind before starting the workshops. He makes high-end bullwhips and has his own YouTube Channel, Caliber Whips.
“A couple of years ago, I was into building DIY weapons,” said Hack. “… The first one turned out horrible.”
Since then he has honed his skills, and people started to ask him to make them a bullwhip, too.
Isaac Castellanos said he wants to start his own comic collectibles site on eBay.
“He is like a natural entrepreneur,” said his mom, Jennifer, adding that Isaac is already thinking about college and is considering GCU. “… We try to take advantage of anything and everything to encourage his passions.”
Iryna Glavnyk, NBDC student ambassador and operations manager, suggested that Isaac should consider his audience. Will his business target youth or more of an adult audience?
“That’s something she pointed out – what market,” Jennifer said.
Fellow NBDC ambassador Chris Califano said he has helped established business owners with the same advice of following the business purpose canvas. Working with business-minded youth, he said, was “really, really interesting.”
“Working with the kids today, their imagination is at a different level,” Califano said, adding that this group is not focused necessarily on the sales side of their business idea but, “It’s more creating a brand … making connections.”
Roxanne Segura, also an NBDC ambassador, said the center facilitates a lot of free trainings for small- to medium-size businesses in the community: “We help people who have a business idea or an established business … get more of a foundation.”
Borquez said once this pilot program is wrapped up, he probably will follow up with a second pilot program in the spring to test this online format even more. The idea is to offer several entrepreneurial training formats – on campus (the course usually lasts four weeks long but was divided into seven for the home-school group), online and a hybrid of online and on the ground.
If everything goes well, it could be as soon as next school year when the virtual trainings get launched.
He said he’s “really excited to be able to work internally with other departments, like Strategic Educational Alliances,” in addition to supporting the community and alumni.
“We want to be available to other colleges,” he said.
And he hopes to get the New Business Development Center’s name out to the community (the website is nbdc.gcu.edu).
“We’ve been doing this a little over a year and a half. … We certainly want to support the West Valley but need to do it effectively to make sure it is successful long-term,” Borquez said of GCU’s support of the place it calls home.
While the NBDC has its eyes on the business community, Jones added that, with this collaboration, she hopes to shine a spotlight on the home-school community, as well.
“I want people to know how home-school-friendly GCU is. They’re an asset to our college. They’re smart and self-motivated. … I wanted to be their advocate. They’re such eager learners.”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at (602) 639-7901 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.