“The Apprentice” is one of my most favorite reality shows. The best part of the series, for me, is the interesting and fun entrepreneurial activities given to the participants who are already established in the field of sales, marketing and business. It is amusing to think that these professionals who join the competition go back to basics just to prove that they can sell anything.
“The Classroom Apprentice”
I’m not suggesting that business educators should follow the format of Donald Trump’s famous series. I just want the teachers to focus on the activities and the lessons students learn after analyzing the results.
Staying inside the classroom is definitely not enough to learn business. As a former student of Business Administration, I loved how my professor challenged us to big class activities that require us to find connections, promote the products and push sales. Because of the passion I discovered during those activities, I started an online business as soon as I graduated. So far, I’m satisfied with the path I’ve chosen.
In order to encourage business students right now to pursue entrepreneurship just like I did, I’m suggesting this group activity “The Classroom Apprentice” to educators. Don’t worry because I’m going to give steps on how to prepare, execute and analyze the activity. I used a program designed by PACE as an inspiration to my suggested activity.
1. Students have to formulate a business plan.
One of the worst mistakes an entrepreneur can face is stopping right in the middle of business. The reason? It could be that the entrepreneur picked the wrong products to sell. Discontinuing a business is a waste of money, time and effort. A good entrepreneur must own a business that fits his interests and skills. If you want to sell shoes because it can generate a lot of money, that’s not reasonable enough. You have to love shoes, know the popular brands and identify what the customers are usually looking for.
Now, a business plan is composed of questions, guidelines or checklists about planning and expectations. It can also help the students decide on what kind of business to undertake. Its major components are description of the business, strategies for marketing, plans on how to manage the business, and ways to generate investment. This is a good way to teach students that they must be cautious in making big decisions in life, especially when it comes to career.
Here are some suggestions so the students can decide faster what kind of business to pursue during the activity. The students can also mix multiple suggestions:
- A business helpful to the neighborhood
- A business requiring personal talent or skill
- A business that can be done at home
- A business that fits the budget
- A business popular in the country
- A business popular worldwide
- A business good for partnerships
- A business good for large groups
Meanwhile, here are some specific suggestions for a simple business that’s fun, exciting and unique for a class activity:
- Repair services
- Band gigs
- Computer services
- Personalized jewelry
- Secondhand clothing
- Cleaning services
- Pet services
- Shopping services
- Web page developer services
- Yard care services
- Hotdog stand
- Babysitting services
- Refreshment stand
On the other hand, here are the sections a business plan should include:
- Short description of the business (one paragraph)
- Service or product to sell
- Personal brand name
- Target market or buyers
- Location of business
- Promotion or marketing strategies to attract buyers
- Brands currently selling the same product or service
- Cost of service or product
- Names of connections for business advice
- Responsibilities of each members of the group
- Ways how to gain the products
- Total amount of required investment (based on expected expenses)
- Expected number of customers and amount of sales every day, week, month and year (depending on the professor’s desired duration for the activity)
- Expected profit based on expected investment and sales
- Ways to generate investment
These lists are still subject for changes because the teacher has every right to decide what’s good for his students. I just gave guides for an easier class implementation.
2. The business plan must be discussed with the adviser.
Obviously, the business plan should be checked by the educator to ensure that nothing goes wrong in the middle of the actual process. Students must avoid changing their business after the launching because it would definitely affect their grades. After all, there is an assigned deadline for this activity.
3. The business plan must be discussed in front of the class.
After everything is finalized, each group must present their business plan in front of other groups. I think it would be more exciting if groups are aware of each business plan. I also believe that groups with the same products or services to sell are going to be more motivated because of competition. Let’s face it – the real world of business is full of competitions. The students must face that reality before pursuing entrepreneurship for real.
4. The students must give updates regarding their sales.
The groups should report their progress every week. Again, it is nice to be informed. The class can also weigh in their encouragements and suggestions to help groups that are having weak sales. Another purpose of this step is to know which group leads the pack. To give the students motivation, aside from high grades, the winning group by the end of the project must win something as a prize.
5. Analysis of the numbers.
After the deadline, the class must analyze the results by comparing their expectations they indicated in the business plan to the actual one. The adviser’s part is to discuss the strongest points of the groups and the weakest. Every mistake along the way should be discussed as well.
6. Celebrate the successful activity.
After all the serious stuff, it would be nice to celebrate the success of the activity. The winning group should be given prizes such as tokens, certificates or trophies. And, if it is okay for the students, the class can have a party with the profit they generated during the activity. If the students prefer saving their money, then that’s fine too. As long as proper acknowledgements are given, “The Classroom Apprentice” would conclude with flying colors.
Having a taste of what’s out there in the business world while still schooling is essential. Teaching business should not be confined within the four walls of the classroom. Surely, the students would face challenges along the way during the activity. But, that’s really okay. It is part of the learning experience.