High schoolers learning to craft businesses in De Pere

The Wisconsin Business World summer program started this past weekend at St. Norbert College in De Pere, where high schoolers began work on developing mock companies.

This four-day summer camp is put on by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Foundation, bringing students and business volunteers together so that young people can learn what it’s like to run a business.

Students form teams of up to a dozen individuals at the beginning of the program; this will be the leadership for their company. With financial success as the primary goal, these companies must come up with a unique product idea, create strategies for bringing it to market, and even try their hand at advertising by creating a commercial.

In an email note, Kari Hofer, executive director of the WMC Foundation, says students “have already formed their companies, determined their organizational structure, and begun to develop their product.”

They had the chance to show off their marketing materials and other work in an imitation trade show yesterday, after Spencer X. Smith, a social media speaker and consultant, gave a talk on the importance of social media in business.

He emphasized the versatility of social media in his speech, explaining that while social can be a great vehicle for making personal connections, using it in a professional context can be just as useful.

His advice was to use social media as a listening tool — finding target customers online, observing the interactions in their own spaces, and then chiming in if there’s an opportunity to do so.

While at the camp, students get the chance to learn about ethics, financial literacy, career planning and other important topics for starting a business. They also compete in a business simulation online to test the efficacy of what they’ve built.

The BizSim software used at the camp runs simulations for four full quarters of activity, giving students feedback based on calculated results. On the final day, teams will present the results of these simulations to “shareholders” in the final stage of the experience.

Students will also tour several businesses, getting an inside look at how real-world companies run the day-to-day. FEECO International, Krueger International, Titletown Brewing Company and Ariens Company were on the schedule for yesterday.

Today, President of Apache Stainless Equipment Corp. and WMC chamber member, Ed Paradowski, will give a talk on financial literacy called “The Lemonade Model.” Brent Weycker, president of Titletown Brewery and former Business World participant, will also address students.

And quite a few other companies with Wisconsin ties are supporting the camp: Alliant Energy, John Deere, Kwik Trip, Kohler, AO Smith, Culver’s and more.

“I must say, this week would not be possible without the generous financial support and leadership of Wisconsin’s business community and WMC,” Hofer added.

–By Alex Moe