Entrepreneurial spirit – High school students learn the art of the sale at Spokane’s Business Week 2004 Trade Show

With $250,000 in his hand and a set of criteria in mind, Rich Hadley entered the Business Week 2004 Trade Show on Friday ready to be wooed by high school students looking to separate the Spokane executive from his cash.

The money, of course, wasn’t real. But the premise behind the trade show was: It’s a chance for students interested in business to learn firsthand about the importance of making eye contact, compiling a mission statement and asking for capital.

Brad Schmidt
Staff writer

More than 130 students came to the Gonzaga University campus for the 22nd annual event, which concludes today. On Friday, 11 groups of students from throughout the state lobbied some 40 local professionals to invest money using fictitious products as selling points.

Students’ inventions varied in range and creativity, as investors contributed to gizmos such as a washer and dryer that folds laundry, a car seat that gives massages, an environmentally friendly exhaust pipe and a refrigerator that lists foods to be restocked. Each group had a set goal for contributions based on the product. Eight of the 11 met or exceeded their marks.

First up for Hadley, who is president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, was Jiggy Electronics. The featured product: a solar-powered "PIDlock" that recognizes a fingerprint instead of a key.

Hadley was flanked by Nina Lau, of Forks, and Jake Bell, of Lacey. Lau answered Hadley’s questions as best she could: Who are you buying your chip from? Did you think of a fuel cell instead of a solar panel? Where is the company located?

Thinking on your feet is important, said Steve Hyer of the Association of Washington Business, one of the event’s co-sponsors. So when students didn’t have an answer, he said, they were encouraged to utilize the art of MSU, or making stuff up.

As Hadley asked Lau questions, Bell stood nearby dressed in a cardboard "PIDlock," serving as one of the many props put together by students. Bell was unique, though, in that he was the only student wearing his product.

"My job is to get people to come and invest in our idea," the 17-year-old said. "I think it’s already helped a lot."

Turnout for the session was lower than it has been in the past. Hyer, executive director for the association, said enrollment peaked at more than 300 students. The ideal is about 200.

Part of the decline can be attributed to costs, Hyer said. The session – which is actually one of three, with weeks scheduled at Central Washington and Western Washington universities in late July and early August – costs about $700 per student. With business donations, students need to pay only $295 each, and exceptions are made based on financial circumstances. The fee used to be $95.

Hyer said about 70 percent of the participating students are going to be juniors or seniors, and many are involved with clubs such as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) or Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA).

Student Andrew DeKay of Kenmore said the trade show was a useful lesson. As CEO of his make-believe corporation, he learned the importance of teamwork.

"I learned that ducks fly 40 percent more efficiently when they’re flying in a V," the 17-year-old said.

Roger Fitzpatrick of Horizon Credit Union served as one of the group advisers, helping students understand basics such as working together and conversing without slang.

"It’s been a great program," he said. "I’m going to tell everyone I know about it. I wish they would have had this when I was a kid. It would have helped me a lot."

After visiting with students for about 45 minutes, Hadley was ready to divvy up his cash. He gave $100,000 to the refrigerator company and $50,000 to another company because, he said, it had the best salesperson.

And he gave $100,000 to the first group he met, the "PIDlock" people. On one condition, that is.

"I think it’s got a lot of potential. Here’s $100,000," he said. "But I want to be on the board. Is there a problem with that?"

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.