More than 200 students from the Midlands and all over South Carolina gathered last week at Presbyterian College in Clinton for a five-day crash course in business, including a chance to spend time with successful executives ready and willing to share their experiences.
South Carolina Business Week, organized by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, is available to the state’s rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Throughout the week, more than 30 prominent business executives teach current business topics and leadership skills. Starting with the basics and adding topics throughout the week, students come up with business plans for their own startups, take part in a computer simulation in which they run their own businesses, and learn to work with a diverse array of people.
“The magic of Business Week is not the Chamber putting it together and the location. The magic rests with the interaction between the business professional and the student,” said Chamber Vice President Robbie Barnett. “That’s the heart and soul. I talk about the Chamber preparing Business Week and the volunteers delivering Business Week.”
The students learned about basic finance, ethics, leadership, entrepreneurship, and the importance of diversity. “Coming here I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’ve loved it,” said student Kennedy Corley. She said an exercise in which her group was given a collection of random items and assigned to find a way to sell them taught her about “the advertising part and ways you can think on your feet.”
“I’ve learned a lot. I never thought about the marketing business or the way money works,” said student Majayla Page. “I got to see if I was married or if I had bad credit how things would work out,” she added, remembering practical exercises in finance.
The students, split into groups, also competed in a Shark Tank competition, presenting their startup ideas to a panel of judges. Scholarships were awarded to outstanding students, and all attended the week at a cost of just $50, with Chamber member businesses covering all other costs. The week wrapped up with a banquet at which the students heard from Nephron Pharmaceuticals CEO Lou Kennedy.
“I personally get energized when I see these kids,” Barnett said. “I hear a lot about South Carolina education. Lots of times people want to criticize it and talk about our negatives, but when you come up here and see these kids from across all the high schools in South Carolina, from the richest to the poorest, and in a week we can’t tell the difference between the students, and they are all one body working together.”
Many of the students attend Business Week more than once, and some are hired after moving on to college as paid assistants and interns. “We try to walk the talk a little bit and help them build their resumes,” Barnett said.