High school entrepreneurs dazzle judges at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

High school entrepreneurs dazzle judges at Beaver Creek

DECA prepares young entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management

The student competitors in last weekend's DECA event in Beaver Creek have 10 minutes to solve problems they've been presented, and 12 minutes to present their solutions to judges.
Special to the Daily

Problem-solving matters, and so does the way you present your solution. That’s why some local Rotarians were all kinds of impressed with the teenaged entrepreneurs trying to convince them that their business idea was the best idea.

Hundreds of high school students from across Colorado recently traveled to Beaver Creek’s Ford Hall last weekend as part of a DECA competition, creating ideas and pitching them to panels of local and regional business professionals, including local business people and Rotary Club members.

Ready, set, convince

Before the competition, the competitors chose from 25 categories — things like the automotive industry, travel and tourism, restaurants, fashion, banking and finance, said Dave Haar, a Valor Christian High School teacher who helped lead this year’s event. From those categories the students were handed scenarios for problems they must solve.

For example, restaurants were given a catering event for a daughter getting married and what could go wrong. Spoiler alert. Everything can go wrong. They were handed human relations problems and the students need to solve them.

They had 10 minutes to come up with a solution and 12 minutes to present it. In other words, the young entrepreneurs conceived their ideas, and then planned and presented everything in less time than it takes to watch a “Friends” rerun without the commercials.

It gives the kids lots of good business and problem-solving experience, Haar said.

The students were role-playing, but the pressure was real. The judges give them a thumbs up or down for both their ideas and presentation.

“It gives you hope for the future,” said local Rotarian Buddy Sims, who was one of the judges.

The weekend storms handed the six DECA officers Haar brought to Beaver Creek their own set of problems. About 500 students hit the road ahead of the storms, so they adjusted from a 700-student conference on Friday to 200 students on Sunday.

For the students, it can be a trial by fire and that’s a good thing, said Madison Giacomo, DECA officer and one of this year’s Beaver Creek winners.

“I am applying confidence and people skills to real-world situations,” Giacomo said. “Whenever I go to the Beaver Creek conference or any competition, my confidence grows and I feel more comfortable getting ready for my career.”

And since we tend to be like the company we keep, DECA helps that too, Giacomo said.

“I have met a lot of motivated people and done a lot of networking,” Giacomo said.

Giacomo and the other members of the DECA leadership team will coordinate two conferences for 1,000 students each.

“That is a resume builder. I am grateful for this opportunity,” she said.

This was its 18th competition in Beaver Creek. DECA is an international business club founded in 1946, teaching business, finance, and marketing for high school and college students — 250,000 students around the world.

DECA teaches the things we hope students learn in schools: innovation and creative problem solving on the fly.

“We hope to give them experience and exposure about what opportunities the business world presents while teaching leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation,” DECA’s Caitlin Roberts said.

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