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LRSD’s New Entrepreneurial Program Gets Students’ Wheels Turning

Several high school students in the Little Rock School District are learning how to build their own business from the ground up this semester as part of the new pilot program called Spark, a partnership between the City of Little Rock’s Department of Community Programs and Junior Achievement of Arkansas, with help from the Little Rock School District, Iberia Bank and the Clinton School of Public Service.

Students began the 15-week course by doing research and devising a business plan for a product that would be relatively cost-efficient to produce as well as meaningful to consumers. The winning idea? A small wall clock that buyers can customize with art. The program culminates with the marketing, selling, and order fulfillment of the clocks — just in time for holiday orders.

The interactive class, being taught at both Central and Parkview high schools, offers training using a blended-learning approach that incorporates real-world lessons with classroom instruction on the basics of entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business success.The sessions contain interactive content, including videocasts led by subject matter experts that explore concepts such as brainstorming a product or service. Lessons also discuss the importance of conducting market research to refine the product or service to meet consumers’ evolving needs.

“As a former Junior Achievement graduate and former entrepreneur myself, this type project has always been an ambition of mine,” says Dana Dossett, Director of Community Programs for the City of Little Rock. “Since most jobs are generated from small businesses, learning effective entrepreneurship skills at a young age are crucial to the future of our youth as more startups open and succeed. The potential opportunities this type of joint project embodies are endless.”

“The Junior Achievement program really goes above and beyond the state frameworks for entrepreneurship,” said Little Rock Central business and marketing teacher Mary Tippin. “I love how theory is being put into practice.”

As the course winds down, Tippin’s students are in beginning production of the clocks with the hopes that their marketing efforts result in even more orders over the next few days. The goal is to fulfill initial orders in time for Christmas.

“The new Spark Program gives students the opportunity to play a greater leadership role in the process with volunteers encouraging them to find their voice and spark the entrepreneurial spirit,” states Chad Kauffman, Executive Director of Junior Achievement of Arkansas. “They have the opportunity to apply concepts used by this generation’s entrepreneurs, such as e-commerce and crowd-funding. In addition, participants are provided an opportunity to present their own business ideas for selection and launch of their own business. Those selected will be presented with additional training, mentoring, and seed funding to start and staff their business.”

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