- The Aspen Difference
8th Grade Business Plan: A Process That Reaps Lifelong Skills
Every 8th grader at Aspen Academy starts their own business. Yes, you read that correctly. Every year, eager 14-year-olds take on a task that many adults have not even done. The hard work they put in, their business ideas and pitches are quite remarkable, but are nothing compared to the skills they walk away with.
The business plan process. Even though many Aspen Academy students are already dreaming about their businesses in elementary school, the actual process does not start until January of their final year at Aspen and ends in April with our very own Shark Tank competition. Every student is assigned an adult mentor to help guide and support them through the process. The entrepreneurs meet with their mentee on a regular basis, answer their questions, and offer feedback as they work on their business plan. The business plan includes weekly thoughtful lessons every morning led by their teachers that walks them through the plan. They learn to create: a description of their products and services; a marketing plan; financials; set 5,10 and 15 year goals; as well as create an operating plan and an executive summary. During this time the students attend workshops on a range of topics from using social media for their business to pitch techniques. Aspen Academy hosts three rounds of Shark Tank. All of the 8th graders participate in the first round for a panel of judges then 17-20 of them move to Round 2 with a new panel of judges. Our top 5-7 students will present their pitch to their peers, parents and a group of judges from the community. First, second and third place win money to invest in their business. Many of the students continue to run and improve their venture past 8th grade.
What skills do they gain in this process? The 8th graders learn life-changing skills in this process that will greatly impact them now and in the future. This capstone project improves their time management skills as they plan, set, and meet deadlines. They recognize how to learn and grow from failure. The young entrepreneurs see the power of a good presentation. The students are constantly practicing for Shark Tank and pitching their business ideas to potential customers and investors. The business plan process helps them increase grit. They are able to pursue an idea that interests them, find purpose, and truly understand that practice makes improvement. Lastly, the students gain self confidence. They learn to believe in themselves and their ideas as they change the world.
In April, 8th Grade students participated in an outdoor business expo where all students were able to see their products and services and purchase from their favorite businesses. For more on the Class of 2021 student businesses, click here.