Developing An Appetite For Business

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Students gain real world experience through comptroller challenge

Carle Place High School Principal Thomas DePaola; Peter Figueroa, project CEO; Preston Monteforte, project vice-president of operations; Maria Buffolino, vice-president of finance for the project; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos; Ben Armstrong, general counsel for the project; Jailene Marin, co-vice-president of marketing for the project and business teacher Toula Foufas.

They may be miles from Silicon Valley, but Carle Place students are getting a taste of what it takes to run a start-up through their participation in Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’ High School Business Challenge.

Carle Place High School is one of 12 schools participating in the fifth annual challenge, which asks students to present ideas for future businesses. This year’s challenge prompts students to conceptualize or develop and bring to market an app with mass appeal in the fields of healthcare, public safety or homeland security.

“We are excited that Carle Place High School will be sending a team of some of its brightest students to participate in the Business Challenge,” said Maragos. “The ideas of young adults are usually the best source for incubating the companies of the future. We want the next Snapchat to be launched right here in Nassau County.”

This is Carle Place’s first time competing in the challenge, and a team of six students has been busy at work over the last month creating what they believe is a revolutionary idea in safety. The experience gives students a chance to win scholarship cash prizes as well as gain invaluable experience, said business teacher Toula Foufas, who is overseeing the project.

“It provides students with some ‘real world’ experience where they can make important connections and receive valuable knowledge that serves them well beyond graduation from high school,” Foufas said. “These experiences help build student resumes and will give them an edge in the job market.”

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos (front, right) talks to students about the business challenge, as principal Thomas DePaola and TKTKTK listens in.

Last week, the students invited Maragos to the school to talk to him about their idea as well as to get advice on what their next steps should be. The comptroller gave students tips for running a successful business and encouraged them to pursue the ideas they were most passionate about.

“Be creative, be original,” Maragos said. “Determine, not only in a theoretical sense but practical sense, to make it useful. What’s its market potential?”

The voluntary project includes every student on the six-person team assuming a role, giving them a feel for what it’s like to work at a start-up. Taking the position of CEO is senior Peter Figueroa, who said his responsibilities include “pulling everyone together and seeing how we all work best.”

“We’re really talented,” Figueroa said. “I’ve enjoyed the experience of having everyone together. It’s a great team. It’s a huge experience.”

Junior Jailene Marin has been interested in pursuing a marketing career since seventh grade and said she is enjoying her role as one of the vice presidents of marketing.

“It really showed me how hard this marketing position is going to be, but I really enjoy it,” said Marin.

In the weeks leading up to the challenge on April 4, the Carle Place students will spend their time working out the details of their start-up, including what the app should cost, advertising, how many employees it would need to run and the legal aspects. The challenge will be held at the Nassau County Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, where they will have to do a “pitch,” which includes a six minute presentation in front of judges and a question and answer session, and if they move on to the final round, an “elevator speech,” to summarize their business plan in front of the judges.

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