Students in Whitfield’s Introduction to Economics, a social studies elective, gain an understanding of the principles of economics and how they affect the national income, supply and demand, consumption and production, employment and unemployment, economic ideologies, growth and contraction, and relationships between different areas of the globe. Through project-based learning, research papers, and seminar discussions, students explore the complexities of today’s increasingly interdependent world and their role within an interconnected global economy.
The capstone experience of the course is the Business Plan Project. Working in groups of three or four, students are designing business plans for an innovative product or service they believe they can successfully sell to consumers in the current St. Louis marketplace. The plan will provide a framework for setting up and running their business as well as educating potential investors that their service is a profitable venture supported by a thoughtful strategy.
Faculty member Michal Kwiecień and Ashley Hastey, Whitfield’s instructional technology coordinator, team-teach the project.
“Our students take Econ for a variety of reasons,” said Kwiecień. “Some students want a ‘non-traditional’ social studies elective, some want to pursue business, finance or accounting in college, and others just want to gain a general knowledge of the field. Whatever their reason, this project requires students to collaborate and innovate.”
Students began by researching local businesses and conducted interviews with business owners. Next, students made decisions on a variety of factors for their business, including: the type of industry, what goods/services to offer, location, business philosophy, how to acquire seed funding, and a company name.
This process led student groups to develop business concepts like: the Hive, a “creative gym” where freelancers in a variety of creative fields can rent studio and maker space; Lavish Lifestyles, an apparel retailer of high-end, hard to find streetwear; Proma Bella, a one-stop shop for dresses, hair, nails, and makeup; an app called ActiPay—a mobile wallet app in the spirit of Apple Pay and Venmo, capable of being used with any smartphone.
After their research was complete, each group created a 16-page written document which included an executive summary, a comprehensive business description and company vision, product description, industry overview, financials, labor requirements, and competitive landscape analysis.
For the presentation component, due later this month, each group will create and present their marketing strategy (advertising, promotion, method of sales, and a customer profile analysis).
Seniors Max Masterson, Adam Cohn, and Finn Murphy appreciate the real-world applications of the project.
“Although this project has been challenging, I love it because I think it will really help me in college and beyond,” said Max Masterson. “I have always been interested in starting my own business. This project acts as my first steps down a business-minded career.”
“I have definitely enjoyed this project. It has been a fun experience collaborating with my classmates and I have learned a lot about entrepreneurship and the economics of starting a business,” said Adam Cohn.
“This assignment is exceptionally relevant in preparing me for college,” said Finn Murphy who will attend Northwestern University next year. “In Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering freshmen work on real business solutions and engineering design problems submitted by individuals, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and industry representatives. Students develop business and engineering ideas and solutions, then communicate their ideas to live audiences through professional presentations—just like our Business Plan project.”