Handshakes were offered, new products presented, scouting salespeople grabbed the attention of investors and dollars changed hands — in a room full of 16-year-olds.
Lewis County’s first Business Week since 2019 was held this week at the Northwest Sports Hub in Centralia thanks to nonprofit Kiddin’ Around with sponsorship by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the Economic Alliance of Lewis County.
This was the nonprofit’s first foray into events for teenagers after getting its start over the last year through events for elementary age children. Previously, Business Week was held at Centralia College and included both Centralia and W.F. West high schools. Besides a venue change and W.F. West’s lack of participation, the setup of the week followed all the standards of the longstanding — minus a COVID-19 hiatus — local event.
High school juniors, in groups of around six to 14, were guided through a four-day business simulation by a company adviser from a Lewis County business or organization. After creating a product (some fantastical, others practical, all creative), companies measured quarterly profits, watched stock prices fluctuate and worked together to face a challenging marketplace. On Thursday, the final day of Business Week, companies presented their product to stockholders and described their process before making pitches to investors for Monopoly money.
Stockholders and investors were played by volunteers from local organizations. Throughout the week, Kiddin’ Around Director Naomi Robb reported a total of 47 volunteers and five student interns, helping 176 juniors. Students also listened to speakers and panels of Lewis County professionals.
While groups competed with one another, Robb said she felt the students whose company’s made mistakes often learned the most about the simulation.
Besides the week offering many students their first introduction to the business world, the event inspires leadership, teamwork and confidence, Robb said. She added that she’s watched many shy students undergo a “transformation” over the several days of Business Week.
According to Robb, teachers said some of the most involved students were those who typically sit on the sidelines in the classroom.
“We’re expanding the realms of education so there’s more inclusivity for a wider variety (of learners),” Robb said.
Likewise, Economic Alliance Executive Director Richard DeBolt, whose entire team closed up shop to volunteer for Business Week this year, called the event an opportunity to invest in the community and its economic future.
But the highlight of the week, he said, was the evolution of his student group’s confidence.
Kiddin’ Around plans to continue hosting Business Week and add various Lewis County schools to the program in upcoming years, Robb said, adding “We’re thrilled with how it’s gone and very, very excited to see it expanding.”
Learn more about the organization at https://www.kiddinaround360.com/.