A Hands-on Business Workshop for Class 12

A Hands-on Business Workshop for Class 12

What does a venture capitalist do? And what exactly is entrepreneurship? Our Class 12 students explored these fascinating fields during an invigorating and interactive workshop that connected them with noted experts – all members of the Chapin community – who volunteered to offer professional guidance, advice and feedback.

The two-part event, which took place after classes had ended and before Senior Internship Week, began on Friday, May 26, with an introduction from Amber Bryant, Chapin’s Coordinator of Internships and an Upper School English teacher, who developed this pilot program.

The students were asked to wear clothes appropriate for the occasion, choosing one of three options: business professional, business casual or business casual with jeans. “Please dress as if you’re headed to work,” Ms. Bryant reminded them ahead of time. “If you choose to wear jeans, aim for the kinds of outfits your teachers might wear on Fridays.”

After indicating their preferred interest area from four broad and timely buckets (digital health and life sciences; enterprise software [SaaS]; social responsibility; and financial technology), the students were introduced to Beth Xie, Associate Director of Endless Frontier Labs and a Chapin parent, who gave them a detailed overview of Business Model Canvas, a strategic management template employed by many start-ups.

After a short break, the seniors next made their way to break-out rooms for hands-on pitch sessions led by alum Sophia Diserio ’14, a Business Operations leader at Navier, who Zoomed in from Boston.

“Clearly state what you actually do,” Ms. Diserio instructed the groups, providing several recognizable examples: “Uber: next-generation car service; WeWork: space as a service; and Dropbox: moving the world’s files.” She implored the teams to craft a “problem statement,” define their customer base and market size and strategize well-thought-out solutions that will resonate with their audience.

The students also learned how to create a credible business model and conduct a competitive analysis of comparable goods and services already on the market, investigating such factors as point-of-sale capabilities, inventory lifecycle and pricing. Throughout the lively gathering, Ms. Diserio asked the students myriad question such as “How will you access early adaptors and champions?” and “How will you scale up and grow exponentially?”

Fortified with insightful, real-world information, the teams spent the next hour brainstorming their own business plans and creating well-written and eye-catching decks to communicate their ideas.

Along with a selection of reading material that Ms. Bryant shared previously, the students were urged to familiarize themselves with a number of key questions about their ventures, including “for which end user is this product beneficial and meaningful?” and “Why is this solution needed right now?”

The following Friday, June 2, Class 12 assembled in the HCI for the second jam-packed workshop session. After practicing and revising their company pitches for Ms. Xie, who served as an ongoing source of support and kindness, the students got ready for the program’s grand finale: the “pitch extravaganza!”

In several Upper School spaces, the teams met their volunteer advisors, who are founders of their own companies and/or venture capitalists (as well as Chapin parents). The adults offered words of wisdom and provided safe and nurturing environments for the students to pitch their companies.

Looking the part in polished outfits, the seniors took turns articulately and passionately describing their business initiatives, which ran the gamut from an environmentally responsible birdfeed venture to a food-ordering app for college students. They clicked through their decks’ vivid slides and capably answered questions from their classmates and their advisors, who were incredibly impressed with their students’ ingenuity, hard work and engaging presentations.

Before Class 12 was dismissed for the day, the full grade returned to HCI to share their experiences. As proud chatter filled the room, it was clear that this workshop was a resounding success, equipping the students with valuable tools and resources to add to their toolboxes as they consider what paths to pursue in college and beyond.

Special thanks to the volunteers who generously shared their time and knowledge with our seniors: current Chapin parents Beth Xie, Toan Huynh, Reshma Rughwani, Marieke Spence, Amy Sung and Mandisa Turner, and alum Sophia Diserio ’14.