Valley students learn to conduct business


Valley students learn to conduct business


Becky Walz


“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” 
– Colin Powell


Valley students are learning just how much work goes into starting and managing a business — and they do it every year.

Since 1996, Valley business teacher DeAnn Lenth has been working with ninth- through 12th-grade students to develop company goals, leadership groups, and products, as well as earn money in a class called Business Management.

“Students focus on being business owners,” said Lenth. “They are broken into employee groups such as production, human resource, marketing, and finance.”

Lenth utilizes the nonprofit governing organization Junior Achievement to teach the hands-on approach to owning a business. 

As part of the 18-week course, every product must be paid for, income tax must be paid to Junior Achievement, and then the group must donate a portion of its proceeds to a charity. This year the group has chosen to donate to the American Cancer Society.

After everything is been paid for, the student stockholders will then be able to receive a paycheck for their work in class.

Within 18 weeks, students learn how to develop a business plan, open a business with a product line, conduct meetings, operate a company meeting, develop marketing strategies, sell products, maintain records, and liquidate the company’s assets.

“It’s about practicing their entrepreneur skills in a real-life exercise than in a workbook,” Lenth noted.

As part of the Junior Achievement program, a volunteer business consultant is necessary, and Paul Fauser from Fauser Energy Resources has been the consultant for many years. 

Fauser visits the classroom six to eight times per semester to listen as the students present their product idea, pricing strategies, and business plan, and then questions them on their decisions.

Opening the doors

In step one, the class introduced the student company, sets goals, assigned responsibilities, and evaluated product or service ideas.

Some of the company’s goals outlined include making customers happy, having fun, working as a team, making a large profit, and selling quality products.

As a group they decided to have a one-month special selling breakfast pizzas and drinks before school each Tuesday.

“We learned how to manage time in setting up and preparing pizzas each morning, and customer service,” said Spencer Atkinson.

They also began with a long list of product ideas. Students took several days to narrow the list down to T-shirts, sweatshirts, yoga pants, and sweatpants.

The marketing department took its cue there and went online to find a design website to come up with the idea “Forever a Tiger.”

“We wanted to do something a little different since it is the last year of Valley. It will help everyone cherish the memories,” said Atkinson.

“I wanted to make sure the students knew that times are changing, but it is okay to have a sense of pride in Valley,” Lenth added about the design chosen.

Once marketing had a design in hand, the five-person production team set to work contacting various vendors for pricing and styles for the shirts.

Deciding to work with a screen-printing company from Lansing, the Valley students ordered samples in each size and color. They also received a copy of what the company suggested the students charge and set their price accordingly.

When the samples were received, the marketing team sprang back into action, setting up a style show for middle and high school students, hanging up posters at school, banks, and convenience stores.

In steps two and three, students developed the business plan, conducted a board of directors meeting, and are operating the company, complete with training, selling the product, maintaining production, sales, personnel, and financial records.

“We really have been able to learn how a business operates internally with hands-on opportunities, which is a good way to learn,” said Jaymes Dotzenrod, a Valley freshman.

Accounting students Nick Boehm and Angela Dummermuth comprise the financial team, and both have been surprised at the amount of money already entering and exiting the small class corporation.

For Valley senior Jacqueline Fettkether, the class has been an opportunity to learn skills she could use in the future. Fettkether dreams of owning and operating a bakery in the future.

“I didn’t realize how much work went into trying to figure pricing. I thought we just needed to raise the price a couple of dollars, but we have to figure costs and competitors’ prices among other things,” the president of the Valley Business Management class said.

Atkinson later added that he had been interested in business before, but the course has further reinforced his decision to pursue a career in it.

Order forms for the clothing items will be accepted until Wednesday, April 10. Copies of the order forms can be found on the school’s webpage at or in the high school office. 





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