Picture yourself walking from one end of The University of Texas at El Paso to the other in 100-degree heat. Now consider the same scenario, but this time you are sipping a reasonably priced, ice-cold agua fresca.
The 23 participants in the 3rd annual Rookie Entrepreneur Program at UTEP considered this idea among others as part of their business plan development. The program, organized by UTEP’s Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship (CHE) in the College of Business Administration and the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce, is for select high school students who want to learn more about the different facets of business.
The program’s curriculum expanded this year to include more about finance, pitching, research, marketing, accounting, management and fund seeking. Participants came from Bowie, Chapin, Del Valle, Riverside, Coronado and San Elizario high schools. They formed three teams that had to develop a business plan, come up with profit margins and sales forecasts, and seek a business loan of up to $450. The program culminated with the teams’ businesses being open for several hours on Friday, July 22, 2016, under the Engineering Breezeway.
The aguas frescas idea was among those floated by a team that included Emily Vasquez and Ruth Yoshida. Vasquez, a 2016 Bowie High School graduate, will be a pre-business student at UTEP in the fall. Yoshida will be a senior at Del Valle High School. This is the third camp for Vasquez and the second for Yoshida. The pair thought a stand selling the popular Mexican drink made of fresh fruits, sugar, water and a few other ingredients would do well.
“We have some ideas of what kinds of foods people might want,” said Vasquez, who along with Yoshida, spent part of a recent morning conducting market research on campus. “We want the customer validation to see if the product will sell.”
The experience is one of the things that make the program worthwhile, Yoshida said. She said she returned for a second year because she gets a lot from what is taught and expected to learn more this year with the program’s more in-depth curriculum and networking opportunities.
Robert Nachtmann, DBA, dean of the College of Business Administration, praised the Rookie Entrepreneur Program (REP) and its leadership for organizing and growing the program that promotes the various skills needed to start a business.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “The students really love it.”
Denisse Olivas, CHE director, and Aaron R. Cervantes, director of operations of the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce, head up the program, which includes three UTEP student mentors.
Olivas and Cervantes said Nachtmann suggested the longer, more intensive curriculum, and their high school counterparts agreed with the changes. Participants are selected by their high schools based in part on interest, leadership and academic performance. All have risen to the challenge, the directors said.
“They like that the curriculum is more intricate,” Olivas said. “The courses are more sophisticated and that is adding to their practical knowledge and helping them develop an expertise. They see the value in this and so do their teachers.”
Cervantes said the students are taught lean startup principles so they can move decisively among numerous business ideas. They do their research and see which ones may be successful and develop them.
For example, Vasquez and Yoshida, the two student entrepreneurs, changed their minds after doing their research and found there was more interest and possible profit in selling snacks and bottled water thanaguas frescas.
“We teach them to not waste time on ideas that won’t work,” said Cervantes, who she he was proud of the camp’s uniqueness. “They need to know how to pivot and put their energies toward products that people want.”
Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications