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Entrepreneur Day offers students learning experience

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With projects ranging from organic agricultural operations to a bakery catering to those in the gothic subculture, local students showcased their business acumen at Cherokee Nation’s Entrepreneurship Day. The event was held recently at Sequoyah Schools’ The Place Where They Play.

With the largest turnout to date, nearly 150 students from multiple area middle and high schools participated in the competition, an event similar to a science fair, but instead of projects like the perennial baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano experiment, students devised hypothetical businesses complete with detailed plans and presentations to judges.

The Cherokee Nation Commerce Department sponsored the event. Veronica Hix, entrepreneur development manager for the Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center, was the event’s organizer.

“The Small Business Assistance Center is thrilled that so many students and schools participated in this event. We hope that through their participation these young people will consider small business as an alternative career choice or as a way to supplement their income someday,” Hix said.

“Entrepreneurship day is designed to instill an entrepreneurial spirit among young people. Small business is the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy, and it is important that we begin working with our youth to help establish our business leaders of tomorrow.”

Participating in the competition helped students develop an appreciation for the organizational skills required to make a business function in the real world.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. There’s a lot of details and research to do for something like this,” said Trenton Guthrie, a competition winner whose project was an athletic department fundraiser for his school.

Other students developed an appreciation for the way the business world truly functions.

“You think it’s going to be easy, but then you find out there are time constraints and expenses like paying your employees,” said Ashlee Doty, an eighth-grader from Sallisaw Middle School who placed in the competition with a business plan for a gothic bakery.

Eighty projects were entered into the competition. Some projects were a group effort and others were developed by individual students. Winners in the competition were selected by a panel of judges who are Tribal Employment Rights Office certified vendors and are themselves entrepreneurs in the community. They judged participating students’ projects based on the proposed businesses’ plausibility and the students’ presentations.

The Cherokee Nation provided lunch for all of the participants and also awarded winners with a wide array of prizes that included iTunes gift cards, iPods, digital cameras and computers. TGI Enterprises, Indian Capital Vo-tech and Cherokee Data Solutions also supplied door prizes for the event.

The Vian High School cheerleaders won the group competition for their project, Ribs and Stuff, under the leadership of their teacher, Tommy Wright.

Alyssa Adamson brought the individual high school title to Tahlequah High School with her project, ECO Design. Her teacher is Brenda McClain.

For their project, Bad Boys, Maryetta School’s Colby Huval, Kyle Luethje, Brennan Varis and Jaron Vaughn won the middle school group competition with Nancy Neff as their teacher.

In the middle school individual contest, Trenton Guthrie of Colcord Middle School won for his Hornets’ Nest project to benefit his school’s athletic department.

The winning students were awarded laptops donated by the Cherokee Nation to aid in their future business studies. Participating area schools included Vian Middle School, Vian High School, Sallisaw’s Tommie Spear Middle School, Locust Grove Middle School, Maryetta School, Sequoyah Schools, Colcord Middle School, Tahlequah High School, Keys High School, Adair High School and Stilwell High School.