Are you a business leader who learned what you know from the School of Hard Knocks? Today, even high school students are being taught the skills to thrive in business. We talked with Chad Froeschle, who is not your typical Business Class Instructor. He teaches a Business Incubator program at Elk Grove High School, where students have the opportunity to learn non-traditional ways to develop ideas, and make them a reality. We sat down to discuss the curriculum at a higher level and gain insights into tomorrow's business leaders.
Q: What makes this program so different from a typical business course?
A: For starters, it challenges traditional approaches to developing a business plan. The traditional methods didn't provide critical steps for planning. As a result, too much time was spent building a business plan around an idea that didn't have a proper foundation to take off. I use the Lean Start Up method that teaches students the value of feedback, testing, and rethinking their product. The Lean Start Up method consists of nine building blocks that make up the Business Model Canvas (BMC). It's different from the normal "write a business plan approach;" there's more testing involved. Approximately 12 teams of students work together on developing diverse products from smartphones apps to landscape services, and even gaming sites.
Q: Sounds like the BMC helps reduce risk associated with starting a business, correct?
A: Yes. The BMC is developed to constantly pivot the students' ideas like a hypothesis, allowing them to become more confident as they move forward. An idea may be good in theory, but as you test it more and more, you start to realize it may not have a place in the market, or there are critical parts missing to make it work.
Q: These sound like skills that can be used beyond the entrepreneur world — in everyday life scenarios. Is that true?
A: Absolutely. A student may not become an entrepreneur in the future, but the course still provides practical education. It's not about teaching entrepreneurial skills, but about unlocking the entrepreneurial spirit. It helps them think differently — like an entrepreneur. These skills are also useful in real-life scenarios like building a career, difficult decision-making, and even managing personal finances.
The course also has a great impact on the creative students, artists or writers, who have great talent, but don't know how to promote, sell, or tailor their work in a specific market or effectively promote their brand. For creatives, there's a disconnect between having the talent and not having the skills to transform their talent in order to make a living. This program can help bridge that gap.
What have you learned from teaching this class?
A: I have learned more from teaching this class in one year than I have in the 21 years I've taught. I've especially learned from the mentors and coaches — business leaders and Elk Grove government officials who volunteer to add real-world experiences to the curriculum. The students develop an idea and they have the chance to discuss it with professional leaders. Hearing what they have to say helps me stay current in a variety of industries. I constantly tell the students that if I had this class in high school, I wouldn't be here. My life would have been different.
Q: Do you feel the class sparks collaboration between students?
A: I've overheard the students sharing ideas with each other. I've also noticed it teaches them group brainstorming skills, problem solving, and even project management tactics. It truly motivates them to work together and solve problems.
You can follow the students' progress on Twitter at @EGBusinessIncub.
Would you like to get involved?
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