Plans for the futurePublished 12:12pm Monday, December 16, 2013
The way Harold Stanislawski sees it, the future of Fergus Falls businesses rests in the hands of the community’s youth.
When Stanislawski, executive director of the the city’s Economic Improvement Commission, and Business Network Fergus Falls President Bruce Fuhrman learned about a business plan competition in Detroit Lakes, they saw it as a perfect fit for Fergus Falls.
“I was so impressed with the philosophy the project had of getting kids involved in entrepreneurship,” Stanislawski said.
This fall, the two brought a business competition to a class at Kennedy Secondary School. The competition is open to students outside the classroom as well, including home-schooled students.
In the competition, students in Cindi Appert’s sales marketing and entrepreneurship class are tasked with coming up with an idea for a local business. The students, working in groups of two or three, will write a business plan, come up with a financial statement and work with local business leaders on polishing their ideas.
All 35 members of the Business Network support the plan, Fuhrman said. Some businesses will be more involved than others in mentoring the students and helping them with their plans, but having support from the business community as a whole has been a big boost to the project.
“This community has demonstrated over and over its commitment to the youth,” Stanislawski said.
The students have been the beneficiaries of that commitment. Each group is preparing to turn in its first rough draft to both Appert and local business leaders to get feedback and help if necessary.
Michael Pistulka, whose group’s idea is for a community pool and recreation center, said chances like this are extremely valuable for students.
“It’s real-world stuff,” he said. “I think it’s the greatest opportunity you can get.”
The other two groups are working on ideas for a restaurant and brewery and a flower and chocolate shop, respectively.
The competition came together quickly, as Stanislawski approached Appert this summer. Plans were not finalized until the school year was underway and Appert’s students only began working on the project about a month ago.
The students have until February 15 to submit their final plans. Finalists will be notified March 15 and a final presentation is scheduled for May 15. The winners will receive $500 and Furhman said he has been discussing the possibility of summer internships with local businesses.
Furhman wanted to make sure students that participated in the competition knew it was not just a classroom exercise.
“If they come up with good ideas, these are things we’ll actually consider funding,” he said.
Furhman and Stanislawski have even bigger plans for the competition moving forward. They would like to expand the project next year to include any interested community members and would also like to move into more area schools. Eventually, they said, the goal is to have this be a national project, which they feel would be a boon to local business.
But the competition has already made a difference to Appert and her students.
“I teach business and I want it to have a real-life application,” Appert said. “This is a great opportunity for them to apply some of the skills we’ve started learning about and see the benefit of that in the community.”
Students interested in participating in this year’s competition can still enter, as long as they have a completed plan submitted by February 15, and can call Kristin Funkhouser at RE/MAX Signature Properties at 998-4663.