Contest inspires entrepreneurial hopes
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
WAIPAHU Alvin Marquez ended up taking a business course in his senior year at Waipahu High School only because the computer networking class was full.
The Waipahu students' idea was to open a clothing store geared toward young customers who, with the help of store staff, would use glitter, markers, crayons and iron-on prints to create individually designed clothes.
The organizers of the second annual High School Marketing Plan and Business Plan Competitions don't expect every member of this year's 41 teams to want to become an entrepreneur as Alvin, 17, does.
But even though they have nonbusiness ambitions, Alvin's teammates seniors Abigail Corpuz and Zerlinda Damo and freshman Lauren Medrano still earned a much deeper appreciation for what it takes to launch a business in Hawai'i after spending the school year developing a business plan for a fictional company.
"It doesn't matter if they have their own business or they're working for somebody else," said Susan Scott, one of the judges of the business plan competition finals who had been a technology startup entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. "The lessons they're learning will help them throughout their life in future jobs and things like having to understand how you manage money."
The Waipahu students worked many long nights doing research, recalculating the fictitious store's financial reports and e-mailing one another with ideas.
"First we needed a business plan and from the beginning we knew nothing about writing a business plan," Alvin said.
They ended up with a 37-page business plan and Powerpoint presentation that included analysis of O'ahu's retail clothing market and the shopping habits of young consumers, as well as ideas for promoting the company and a sample survey for potential customers.
"The judges were telling us we should pursue it as a real business," Lauren said.
Teams from other high schools came up with equally innovative ideas for businesses, such as Kalani High School's daycare and spa for dogs, which won second place in the business plan competition.
Separate teams from Moanalua High School won first and third place in the marketing portion of the competition, both for ideas to market the school store. Pearl City High School won second place in the marketing, with an idea to create a video yearbook. Baldwin High School's Team Sushi Go wanted to market a sushi restaurant that caters to high school students.
"We were really impressed with the quality of the plans," said Rob Robinson, one of the judges of the business plan competition and executive director of the University of Hawai'i's Entrepreneurship Center, which helped sponsor the competition. "... We want to create good-paying jobs in Hawai'i and entrepreneurship is one way to accomplish that."
The winning teams won plaques, medals and individual college scholarships of $500.
Alvin, who plans to go to Utah for college, said: "We have to promote business in Hawai'i. New businesses and new ideas will give more people reasons to come here."
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com or 525-8085.
Correction: Lisa Sylva's name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.