VEI Wins State & Competes at Nationals

The electric vehicle business has been booming at Timothy Christian High School.

That’s the product Kendra Lee’s Virtual Enterprises International class — an elective course at the high school — had as the focus of its operations for this school year, going to market as the company Core, Inc.

VEI is a program where students run virtual businesses in the classroom. Lee notes more than 500 schools run a VEI program in the United States and more than 3,500 do so worldwide.

Students in the class go through a mock interview process for positions within the virtual company, ranging from CEO to other spots such as marketing, human resources, sales and marketing. Core, Inc.’s business model is leasing electric vehicles to other VEI employees.

“Once you go through the interview process, you come up with a business idea and what product you want to sell in the virtual marketplace,” explains Lee, Director of Teaching and Learning for grades 7-12 at Timothy Christian Schools, the VEI facilitator at Timothy, and the Illinois VEI coordinator.

“The students have to develop a business plan, get it approved and then go through the process of running a business day to day with a website, financial statements and doing promotion on social media. They are paid with virtual salaries and have their own personal bank account. At the end of the year they write an annual report, see if they reached their goals and analyze what they would do differently for next year.”

“The students have to develop a business plan, get it approved and then go through the process of running a business day to day with a website, financial statements and doing promotion on social media.”

Throughout the year, the Timothy VEI team competes in a variety of competitions. This year, Timothy took first in Illinois in the business plan competition and earned a spot in the National competition that was held in New York last month.

The business plan group included Ryan DeBoer, Nick Teune, Matt Henning, Reis Glover, Kennedi Foster, and Rachel Bergstrom.

Lee notes one of the neat things about the class is the fact that with 28 students in it, 28 different job functions are being performed on a daily basis. During the months of March and April, the big focus was on getting ready for the face-to-face VEI trade show that was held in April.

“It’s everything from marketing designing banners and fliers to the sales team sending emails, HR printing business cards, labels being made, and accounting getting the sales system ready to go,” says Lee, who adds the VEI class at Timothy is open to juniors and seniors only. “Very different things happen all on the same day, just like a business. Everybody is doing their job to make sure the business is running smoothly.”

For the state competition, Timothy submitted a four-page executive summary in November and then in the first week of December two days of competition occurred, including a 10-minute oral presentation. “There were two sets of panel judges for the written and oral parts and then scores were combined,” Lee notes.

Timothy advanced to the final round of eight where it then had to update/revise its executive summary and present it to another panel of judges. Timothy ended up winning the business plan competition. To prepare for the national competition, students presented to various business leaders and had two mentoring sessions from a former facilitator who has had national winning teams. After each session, students used the feedback to make adjustments to the presentation and answers to possible questions. This process helped to build the students’ confidence going into the national event.

At the national competition, Timothy’s VEI team had to put together a 20-page business plan that expanded on ideas in its executive summary. That was submitted in March. Timothy was one of 41 teams competing this year at the national level. The business plan presentation part of the competition was held at the United Federation of Teachers building in Manhattan, while the trade show was at the Long Island University Brooklyn campus.

Lee says the class is a yearly home run on multiple levels. “You learn about how a business works,” she says. “Odds are you will work for a business. There are many skills the students are learning that are transferable, such as the interview process or your resumé. We do mock interviews and I will bring in business people to do the interviews with the students. They are learning about things such as conflict resolution, presentation skills, and problem-solving.”

There also is plenty of time to talk about the importance of Christianity in the workplace. “We talk about what that means,” Lee says. “Many times we aren’t perfect, we get upset and say things we don’t mean. As a Christian, when we do things wrong, how we respond might look different than how the world would respond. We need to take responsibility and say we are sorry. We talk about ethics and doing the right thing — stand up if you see something that is wrong. We talk about making sure the missions and values of the places you work align with your values.”

During Monday morning company meetings in the class, students lead devotions and they set spiritual goals. “We check in each month to see how they are keeping up with their goal,” Lee said. “It could be as simple as taking time to pray and read the Bible more.”

This was the sixth year of the VEI class at Timothy and culminated with Timothy earning its first nationals bid. “It’s very exciting watching the kids,” Lee says. “They spent a lot of time and prep with the business plan. There were times they stayed after school and worked into the evenings. We’d order dinner and they stayed and put in the extra time. It’s something they strive for each year. This is a big deal.”

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