Getting Down to Business: Entrepreneurial Studies Students Launch Businesses for Real-World Learning
If you could teach your dream course, what would it be? It was the missive put forth by Ryan Hews, head of the upper school, when he joined the Hun School in 2010. It was that radical thinking that sparked the idea for Entrepreneurial Studies, the brainchild of teacher Dana Radanovic. “I thought, how great would it be to take students through that process of creating, and running, a business?,” says Mrs. Radanovic. “This opportunity gives students an experience so far outside the classroom. They learn by doing, by creating something from start to finish. What better way to learn is there?”
Nine years later, the class, now under the direction of teachers Patrick Quirk ’02 and Jennifer Stone ’93, remains ever-popular. During the first semester students, students learn about business plans, finances, and are even sent to poll passersby in Princeton. “I want them to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Mr. Quirk.
Once they’ve identified pain points in the Princeton community and brainstormed ideas, they bring that knowledge back to campus and get right down to business—by launching their own. They’re given $300 in seed money and all profits are put back into the program. Students also pitch their business plan to a panel of faculty and staff, making adjustments based on real-world feedback. Over the years, student businesses have run the gamut from smoothies and t-shirt printing to creative buttons. “That business started off on the right foot because the student went directly to Mr. Hews and sold 700 pins right off the bat,” says Mrs. Radanovic.
Food-based businesses are perennially popular and, this year, Tom Paolino ’20, Brendan Pearson ’20, and Victor Pertsew ’19 created Stress Box. “Our service delivers snacks and drinks right to your dorm or the Heart of Hun at a cheaper price than convenience stores,” says Brendan. While it naturally appeals to boarding students, “our customers are 50 percent boarders and 50 percent day students,” says Brendan. “Stress Box isn’t just selling food; they’re selling a service,” says Mr. Quirk.
Brendan estimates that he currently spends about ten hours a week on Stress Box, but he’s discovered a passion for marketing. Whether he’s developing promotions targeted at sports teams or sponsoring Residential Life nights, he enjoys seeing the direct effects his promotions have on the bottom line. While the businesses launched in Entrepreneurial Studies typically close when the semester ends, Brendan Pearson hopes to continue Stress Box next year on his own.
From settling on an idea to marketing and operations, running a business is challenging, something that isn’t lost on the Hun School students. “It’s hard. There is a lot of planning when you start and it’s a lot of work,” says Brendan. Mrs. Radanovic echoes that, recalling a former student’s remarks. “She told me, ‘thank you for teaching me the meaning of hard work.’”
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.