MO Challenge introduces high school students to Bloch School

Esmie Tseng

High school students from schools across Missouri spent Friday in the UMKC Bloch Executive building for the state final of the 2014 Missouri Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Every student was offered a $1,000 scholarship for applying to enter the Bloch program.

“Some of them have never been out of St. Louis,” said Meagan Bonnell-Yogi, who teaches business at Gateway STEM High School in St. Louis. “We went to Applebee’s and some of them were so excited about just Applebee’s. For many of the students from schools in lower socioeconomic areas of the state, the $1,000 could be what makes the decision for them.”

The first online round of the event was open for a two-week window to all Missouri high schools. The scenario challenged students to create a new product or service for school stores to streamline efficiency, increase revenues or both. Students were to show how they would keep costs down to ensure the schools could afford the products and make a decent profit.

“This program is something that I wanted to for years and I started it as a small regional one in St. Joseph about five or six years ago,” said Patricia Palmer, who has worked as a curriculum consultant in the economics department at UMKC for 20 years. “The event went so well that we made it a statewide event in the fall, and then that went so well we opened it up so that any teacher in the state of Missouri could have a team or teams because it was online. We might have had 700 different students around the state who were on a team and submitted a business plan.”

From the initial round of online entries, 40 teams of five students were selected by impartial judges to be invited to the UMKC campus for the final round. Each team was then paired randomly with another team for ten members to work together on the next challenging scenario, which was to introduce new ways to use drone technology. Students worked together using the Business Model Canvas, a visual chart outlining elements of a business model, then brainstormed with sticky notes before creating a PowerPoint presentation.

Teachers from the schools accompanied the students to UMKC and listened to presentations about the UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars Program, which accelerates student ventures and success by providing resources and mentors through a global network of business leaders, investors and other entrepreneurs. Phillip Gonsher, professor of marketing at the Bloch Business School, spoke with the teachers while their students spent the morning on transforming their Business Model Canvases into viable presentations for the challenge.

“He’s going to try to show them what we teach at the college level,” Palmer said of Gonsher’s presentation. “And let them know this is what we do, and if you are aware of that, then you in your own classroom can try to make it a seamless transition for the students.”

Some high schools are offering dual and AP credit business classes to their students that align with the UMKC curriculum.

The students’ ideas were evaluated based on how well they addressed several criteria: the quality of the business problem or idea identified, the thoroughness of the market segment, the plan for generating revenue and identifying costs and the business structure and management plan.