ASH seniors learn to operate their own business

Presenting a business plan to judges April 26 marked the culmination of the year-long math elective “Financial Literacy” for six Academy of the Sacred Heart seniors.

Three, two-student teams  stood before a panel of local business men and women and made pitches – through a detailed business plan and video – about why their business should be granted a start-up loan.
First up was “Dripping Dreams Coffee,” the brainchild of students Carley Bohn and Elle Wenzel. The owners boasted about their assortment of pastries, variety of bagels, including the “confetti bagel” they thought was inviting and fun, and specialty drinks. They also pitched a business plan, noting all the permitting, insurance and licenses required, while identifying their main competition. They promised to pay back their loan in 10 years and forecasted 125 customers spending an average of $7.50 a day. 
Bohn and Wenzel said their business would be more inviting and provide better service and a more inviting atmosphere than competitors’. They would be an equal opportunity employer and pay employees $7 an hour plus tips, with a guarantee of $12 an hour. They also projected a 5-percent sales growth in Year 1 and a 1-percent growth over the following two to three years.

More business plans given

Second up was “All Nighter,” with Sarah Schuler and Isabel Yarborough. They desired to locate their 1,000-square-foot coffee business at Tulane Medical Center, even though an existing coffeehouse there caters to the same market of doctors, nurses and interns. All Nighter would attract a secondary market of patients, their family and friends and have longer hours – 5:30 a.m.-11 p.m. – to better accommodate customers and offer healthier options with the “freshest ingredients.” They touted faster service and fresh ingredients, with on-site preparation of baked goods, soups and salad, as benefits that would beat the competition. They predicted a 5-percent annual growth and $350,000 in sales the first year.
“People will choose us over our competition because we offer healthy choices,” Schuler said. Initially stumbling when asked about staffing the longer hours, they said they could step in when necessary since they lived nearby. Their employee salary was $6 an hour, with an estimated $5 in tips.
Up last was “Let’s Do Coffee” with Madison Keller and Destiny Stafford, who both mentioned previous business ownership in addition to this joint venture. They enticed the judges immediately by sharing samples of their signature “Oreo muffin.”
They explained their calculated risk of opening their coffee shop near two competitors by hoping to capitalize on overflow business due to long drive-thru lines at peak times. Let’s Do Coffee would offer speedier service for daily commuters to and from work and “give people experiences they wish they had” with larger space for commuters and students. Employees would create a festive atmosphere by dancing when the tip jar filled halfway.

Then there was the muffin.
“The icing is the best part,” Keller said as she spread it on judges’ samples.
“Let’s Do Coffee” sought a loan of $160,000 but would pay it off in eight years. Their employee salary was $5 an hour, with an estimated $5 in tips.

After doing secret shopping at competing businesses, Keller and Stafford estimated 150 customers a day spending $5.50 each visit. Their break-even point was estimated at $16,888 a month.
After each pitch, judges had an opportunity to ask questions pertaining to their business plan and gave specific advice to co-owners about their product offerings.
Keller and Stafford of “Let’s Do Coffee” were chosen as winners and received a gift basket of products.

What they learned

“This class was not only useful for our lives now but will prepare us for our future,” Stafford said.
“It will help us determine what we want to do in life,” Sarah Schuler said.
“Everything we’re learning now pertains to everything we will be doing in the future,” Stafford said. “We did budget plans and kept receipts. We did our business plan over the course of the entire year. Each new topic would be added.”

“We’re more prepared to open a business than we were when we started this class,” Keller said. “We now have the fundamentals we need to do it.”
Two years in the making

The financial literacy class began in the 2016-17 school year at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. Aubry Miller, whose daughter is in the 1-year-old program at ASH, created it, using her knowledge of owning and running a PJ’s coffeehouse Uptown. Students did an online course in the summer on personal finances to prepare for the school-year course that offered classes two to three times weekly.
“Teaching them how important financial literacy is in life has been important,” Miller said, adding how formulating a business plan and on-the-job learning were essential for the students to comprehend running their own business. Miller hopes to grow the course so when her daughter is old enough, she can take it. 
Over the school year, students gained smarts about franchising, types of insurance necessary in business, leases, taxes, employee policies, real estate and more. from professional speakers. Emily Marcotte, lead accountant at Entergy, who spoke of the importance of organized finances for a small business; Ben Kerber, Capstone Insurance, discussing necessary small-business insurances; Norman Albright, vice president of operations for Ballard Brands who spoke about day-to-day operations in a small business and managing employees; Christin Goletz Couvilion, clinic operations manager for Ochsner who discussed physicians owning their own clinics with Ochsner affiliation; Lacour Miller, underwriting head at Bluevine Capital who discussed career paths in finance; and Kay Charbonnet, owner of Kay’s Boutique, and Rachel Adams, owner of The Elizabeth Chronicles who shared being a female owning her own business. 
Students got to put their skills in use by running a PJ’s extension on campus weekdays in before and after school. They tracked “sales and trends, created and changed operational procedures” and even created their own “frequent buyer cards” and delivery service alongside employees of PJ’s. They donated tips from the campus PJ’s to ARNO No-Kill animal shelter to help provide needed shelving
“These ladies have done an outstanding job,” said PJ roast master Felton Jones. “It was truly amazing how in-depth they went and all the thoughts that they put into it.” He told them, “You are not too early in these plans, and I can’t wait to walk into one of your PJ’s one day.”
Miller encouraged the girls to keep their business plans for future reference.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion

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