Most students are familiar with the business programs at LFHS. It’s, of course, safe to say that the majority of them have been involved with at least one of these great programs offered at LFHS. If you ever have been solicited to purchase a reusable Scouts water bottle or a frisbee with a blue or gold spear across the top of it, it is probably from students of the Business Entrepreneurship class.
This class was founded twenty years ago when Mr. Joe Pulio introduced the idea to the school. It was a major success from the beginning and a few years later it was taken over by Mr. Phil LaScala, who continues to do a fantastic job with the program. For freshman and sophomores, Business Entrepreneurship is the class to be in. Students have the opportunity to essentially create a corporation with their fellow peers, choose a product and brand it with Scout pride. Using a more traditional business model called the Junior Achievement model, the students eventually sell their product to other students and parents of the community, and all the proceeds go to a charity of the corporation’s choice. Each class elects students into positions within the corporation: CEO, CFO, Marketing, Sales and Finance teams among other positions. Mr LaScala mentioned, “the class gives students excellent leadership opportunities where each head of chair is responsible to motivate, implement and execute their plan of attack successful business.” The way this class is structured allows students to get a glimpse into what it takes to run a real business and sell a product.
Juniors that are serious about business and want to dive deeper into the inner workings of a business choose to take Business Incubator. The incubator class was brought to Lake Forest High School four years ago when Mr. Pulio saw the success of the program at Barrington High School and decided he could implement the same course at our school. When we started the program here at LFHS there were only around five high school incubators across the country. Now, upwards of 20 exist nationwide. Within the first few days of the course students are placed into groups of 5-6 based on the BOSI entrepreneurship DNA test, which was created by entrepreneur and TED talker Joe Abraham. The test asks students 10 questions about what they are interested in, goals, character traits and strengths among other things. Based on their answers, students are given one of these four entrepreneurship types: builder, opportunist, specialist, and innovator. Once each student has identified their type, they join three or more other students of different entrepreneurship types, creating a well-balanced group. These groups will stay the same throughout the semester and hopefully work well to create a business. Immediately, the brainstorming commences.
Each eager student is asked to think of problems in their everyday life or other people’s lives which they believe could solve by creating a viable product to fix or lessen these problems. Within the first week or so, a decision is made on a product and the mentors are introduced. The mentors are a crucial part of the success of the Business Incubator, generally adults from the community who have a plethora of experience in many different areas of business. These hardworking people volunteer to be a mentor and put in many hours during the week, in and out of the school day to ensure success of their groups. Where the Incubator program differs drastically from the business entrepreneurship is in the business model that is used. It’s fitting that the newest business course uses the newest business model: The Lean Startup.
This business model is exactly what it sounds like, starting up a new business while using limited resources. Mr. LaScala and Mr. Pulio both preach the Lean Startup business model. They have each student read The Lean Startup book which covers everything from the entrepreneur mindset needed to be successful, to which types of spreadsheets and charts are the most efficient for the students. These skills are necessary to be successful in this class, one that is especially important is having a growth mindset. Senior James Buckhardt adds, “Having a growth mindset is really important in this class, as there is always a lot of criticism towards any new idea and you can’t be offended by it, because it ultimately is going to help you.” James is a founding member of Generation Integration, a company that was incubated in the 2016-2017 school year, earned funding on pitch night and continues to work hard their senior year to make their business successful. In addition to an overall understanding of what it takes to run a business, one of the best lessons that can be learned in this class is presentation skills. Each group gives at least four presentations a semester in front of a teacher and mentors, criticism can be tough but necessary for perfecting your presentation abilities.
If you are somewhat intrigued by the idea of running your own business, or even just want to get your feet wet in just about every topic of business, these two courses are exactly what you need to sign up for. It’s not totally necessary to take entrepreneurship before Incubator, but it certainly will give you a advantage. These classes are not your typical high school class, teachers will help you in any and every way they can but refuse to hold your hand through the process. It is necessary that students become self sufficient and make a plan of action to be successful instead of the teacher constantly telling you what to do. Looking back as a senior at LFHS, the opportunities that are available for students are bountiful, and taking advantage of as many as possible is not only a great idea but incredibly worthwhile. The skills that are forged through hard work and dedication go much further than just that class, they will help you succeed in just about every aspect of your life.