Giving Denver JDS students an entrepreneurial advantage

Shark tank calculator
  • Inside the Classroom
  • Upper Division
Marty Zimmerman, Denver JDS teacher and president/co-founder of ZIM Consulting
Shark tank calculator

By Marty Zimmerman
Denver JDS teacher and president/co-founder of ZIM Consulting

What do hydroponic farms, graphing calculators, high-end scrunchies, specialized travel and a non-profit that provides baby furniture to low income families have in common? They were all businesses created by high school students in the pilot semester of Denver JDS’s new Upper Division entrepreneurship program.

With an idea initially presented to Denver JDS by Lower Division parent and entrepreneur Yosh Eisbart, plans for this class took six months to determine content, and how to engage the students in ways that would assist them in attaining future success. Thus, a curriculum was created that focused on learning both business skills and important life skills that parallel business success.

During class, eight students in ninth, 10th and 11th grades determined the products their businesses would sell, performed market research, learned basic accounting and budgeting, and created business plans to guide the future of their businesses. Concurrently, they learned life skills such as creating and managing their own personal budgets with a focus on how to reduce expenses to save for future planning and created their own personal resumes. Additionally, they learned the crossover skill of learning how to negotiate, with each student facilitating a negotiation game and how to ask for something that made them uncomfortable. 

Presenting to sharks

A ninth grader presents her idea for high-end scrunchies to local business owners.

Overall, they learned the meaning of and how to use more than 50 terms that communicate the language of business. The language and negotiation skills were vital to them succeeding in the final presentation.  
The outcome of the class saw the students pitch their businesses to a “Tiger Shark Tank” in front of a crowd of teachers, parents, and fellow students. Based on the concept from the hit television show, four of the students pitched their businesses to potential investors who are actual entrepreneurs and investors. In sometimes tense and sometimes challenging negotiations, three of the students secured investment deals in their products and the last one smartly convinced the entire tank to join her board.

The second section of the class will focus on students implementing an actual business, expanding their understanding of additional life skills (such as understanding credit, human resources, insurance, enhanced computer skills, etc.), and moving from the business concepts to actual sales and management.

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