For the first two weeks Roby Platt dreaded going to his entrepreneurial studies class. Forced to tell his story and pitch himself to his classmates was more than he could handle.
“I’ve dealt with not fitting in before, it’s made me a sensitive person,” Roby said.
“The initial feedback I got would really upset me. I wanted to drop the class. It felt like I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried.”
But soon enough Roby realised that these struggles were part of the learning process in this innovative course. By learning to tell his story and owning it, he discovered a lot about himself and how he responds to others.
“It’s made me a confident person, I’m much stronger,” the North Broward Preparatory School grade 10 student said. “I’m speechless to say how much it’s done for me.”
Roby’s transformation is at the core of what Entrepreneurial Studies, a subject taught to grade 9-12 students at the school, is about. Anastasia Hall, the programme’s teacher said, while students are taught to create a business, seek funding through an investor and learn how to launch their business in the market, the focus is on how they can develop the mindset and skills of an entrepreneur to achieve success and fulfillment.
“That mindset is what’s gold,” Ms Hall said.
“All of my students may not become entrepreneurs when they leave this programme but all of them will understand the value of experimenting, which may lead to occasional failure; how to fail well and with purpose, how to develop solid relationships, lead strong teams and collaborate.”
Students are also taught to seek a mentor for guidance and gain access to opportunities that enable them to tell and ultimately sell their story, with the aim to influence the behaviour of people in the market.
“They’re learning to build that entrepreneurial mindset,” Ms Hall said.
“They become independent thinkers, speakers, actors in the world. They’re able to look at certain problems and say these are worth solving. And even if I don’t know how to solve them, I know I have the mindset to solve them if I apply myself. That’s the biggest thing coming out of this course.”
Running for just eight months, Ms Hall said she brought the entrepreneurial studies programme to North Broward from Windermere Preparatory School, a Nord Anglia Education sister school. She saw the dramatic changes students experienced there.
“The way the students were interacting with me, a stranger, with each other — it was unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Ms Hall said.
“They started in August and when I went to see them in February again they were different people.”
The second and third trimesters of the programme include students forming teams to start their own companies and pitch their businesses to investors for funding to get their businesses to market.
Roby linked up with three international students to build an innovative chicken tender restaurant where customers could place and collect their orders from a vending machine. Customers flavour their food by choosing from a variety of sauces that they can inject into the chicken tender themselves.
“We wanted to introduce an innovative product using technology that appeals to the modern market,” Roby said. “It’s a customisable experience and a unique opportunity.”
What was also unique was the opportunity students had to explore whether they could collaborate and work together to build a business without supervision. Some teams struggled to negotiate challenging situations because they decided to do business with their friends.
“All of a sudden a student will get up in front of the class and say, ‘I need to pitch to fire this person’,” Ms Hall said. “Maybe the person isn’t stepping up to do the work, it’s an issue they complain about every year. This time they’re not only having the conversation, they’re doing something about it.”
“My group’s been fortunate that we listen to each other,” Roby said. “The course is self-led, you have think for yourself and rely on yourself. It’s like learning how to learn to be unleashed. This whole thing is about taking risks.”
By growing their appetite for risk students develop a variety of key skills including communication, critical thinking, creativity, grit and resilience. The difference is the approach taken to learn and hone them.
Ms Hall said parents have been especially appreciative of the outcomes of the course as they feel more involved in their child’s work and life at school.
“Their kids are talking to them and looking to them for mentorship,” Ms Hall said. “One student sought the help of a parent at the school to figure out a liability issue with a service he’s trying to create. Suddenly they become a part of their child’s future.”
“I wouldn’t have imagined I would be where I am right now,” Roby said. “I told my dad we’re going to be so advanced when we hit university and beyond.”