BUCKHANNON – Local residents have another reason to be proud of the students in Upshur County.
A Buckhannon-Upshur High School duo recently learned their business plan landed them in the top 10 finalists in the state in the West Virginia High School Business Plan Competition, which is hosted by the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business & Economics the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and West Virginia Secondary Education.
B-UHS Juniors Autumn Cutright and Lillian Davis submitted a business plan for a restaurant called the Starlight Café and recently learned their business plan is in the top 10 in the state of West Virginia. They will move on to the final competition.
DECA Advisor and B-UHS Business Instructor Keith Nichols said the competition is still going on.
The competition encourages high school juniors and seniors to solve some of West Virginia’s greatest issues and encourages them to work collaboratively to move the state forward. The grand prize is a $10,000 scholarship to a participating West Virginia institute of higher education.
The website said the competition is aimed at having students develop a business plan and to move the business idea from conception to action with the help of seasoned business professionals.
“The idea is to tap into young entrepreneurial minds in the state of West Virginia,” Nichols said. “They want to give students a platform to explore starting a business in West Virginia. They are looking to find young talent across the state early and promote the college. They realize the importance of entrepreneurship as a foundational economic driver.”
Across West Virginia and the country, small businesses owners are the backbone of a good economy, Nichols said.
“They hire more people than the larger corporations across the country. We know if we give students the opportunity to engage in the creative nature of starting a business, there may be the likelihood they will go on to start a business,” he said.
Nichols said they identify the top 10 business plans submitted from across the state.
“I make it a requirement for my business and marketing essentials class,” he said. “We study what makes a business plan and then every student that is eligible, submits a business plan.”
He said last year, his students were the state winners.
“So, we have a little bit of history and we are in the top ten again,” Nichols said. “In March, the top 10 finalists will have to submit their business plan and a PowerPoint presentation to judges made up of West Virginia business leaders. It’s a pretty intense process for young people. It is a timed presentation followed by questions.”
Nichols said the contest is one of the most thrilling parts of his school year.
“I love sparking the idea of starting a business and seeing students get excited about the potential of their business. It starts out as an idea and as we teach them about all of the parts and pieces of what makes a successful business plan, they become invested and become protective of their business plan, and it is certainly exciting to see them take ownership of their idea. It’s a very creative process and creating something from nothing is a very artistic thing to do. It’s an amazing thing to see these students succeed. It’s fun to celebrate with the students.”
Nichols said right now in the United States, business administration is the number one degree.
“It’s one of those courses that is broad in scope and includes personal finance, marketing, management and accounting,” he said. “These feed into the number one degree in the land.”
Nichols has taught five years at B-UHS and his classes include business and marketing essentials, and management and entrepreneurship, which manages the school store and business computer applications.
“These students have worked very hard, and they still have a lot of work ahead of them,” Nichols said. “They are just like any other students – they are nervous, and they are excited. They are proud.”
He said he encourages the community to lift Autumn and Lillian in support and keep them in their minds.
“They represent Upshur County, the community and Buckhannon-Upshur High School,” Nichols said. “Let’s wish them well.”