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A handful of Wayne High School students got an amazing surprise for their home-grown business ideas on a recent afternoon.

At the New Tech Academy at Wayne, a combined English and Economics class of about 75 students is going through a project of starting their own businesses – all the way from conception and planning, to advertising and selling their new products.

And on a chilly March 15, many students got a little seed money to help their new business ideas grow. Awarded by the Believe in a Dream Foundation, the grants actually were kept secret to the students who were to receive them. They knew neither who would receive the gifts, nor how much they would be, according to Todd Roberts, an Economics teacher at New Tech, who has been there three years.

One local businessperson who helped mentor students in the project was Heather Osbun Smith, an account executive at Brand Innovation Group. Smith has been with BIG for one year, but in advertising and marketing for the past 15 years.

In the program, Smith assisted several student groups with their start-up businesses, one with hair-care products, one that sold bath bombs, one with a clothing line for children, one that produced a life-size board game, and still another that conceived an app that allows artists to upload and sell their work via their mobile phones.

She said the whole experience was very rewarding, both personally and professionally.

“I think it was good for the students to know how much goes into starting a business. It was good to see the enthusiasm and excitement at dreaming big and the possibility that they might be able to make their business come to fruition,” she said.

“And it was fun for me to see their thought process and how much thought they put into not only the business but how to convey their business through logos, headlines, etc. And it was super fun for me to see their thought processes, and to feel like I could add something from my professional experience.”

Students agreed that the project was rewarding for them, as well.

“It’s a morale booster that lets us realize this is really happening,” said Sam Farley, an 18-year-old senior in the class. “This is something real, not like some of the projects we do in other classes.”

She and 18-year-old senior Grant Smith conceived of a business they called “Outdoor Wonders Nature Tour,” which would show folks around the woods and natural areas around and behind Wayne High School, located at 9100 Winchester Road, and explain all the local flora and fauna of the area.

Steve Franks, a board member with Believe in a Dream, said the whole idea is not just a way to teach students like Farley and Smith, but to boost the community, as well.

“These people are the future of our community,” Franks said, “Job growth almost always comes from new venture creations. This is the cumulative effect of education and job creation. And it will really add to the culture and ambiance of our community. And that’s what’s important.”

Michael Morrissey
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Michael Morrissey

Michael is a professional writer and journalist. He attended South Side High School and Northwestern University. He has written for newspapers in Michigan City, Indiana; Pekin, Illinois; and Bradenton, Florida. He also has written for and edited websites in Florida and San Francisco, California. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer