Taking a deep breath, Samantha Jansma and Gabrielle Kerr make their way to front of the classroom where they imagine convincing a bank of judges their $33,990 advertising campaign for Payless ShoeSource is what the discount footwear retailer needs.
They’ll soon discover if their months of research has paid off before a panel of real judges.
Samantha, Gabrielle and 50 other students who are members of the Caledonia High School chapter of DECA will get to test their entrepreneurial and marketing mettle when they compete at the DECA (business marketing organzization) state competition in Grand Rapids.
This business marketing student organization, offered in high schools and colleges, provides experiential learning activities through business related lessons and competitions. When it was established in 1947, DECA meant Distributive Education Clubs of America, but as the organization evolved over the years it’s known solely by its acronym.
DECA’s objectives include preparing young people for business-related careers in marketing, management and entrepreneurship, as well as helping to hone their skills in team building, innovation and creativity. What began with a few hundred students in 17 states has grown to more than 185,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Guam, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Germany.
Their hard work and determination has paid off for the Caledonia DECA members.
At DECA’s recent regional competition held at Ferris State University, 74 Caledonia students participated in 26 of 30 business/marketing events against students from 19 other high schools throughout western Michigan. Ninety-two earned medals from the competition.
Moving on to the State Competition
As a result, 52 from the Caledonia High School chapter qualified to compete at the DECA state competition slated for March 13-15 at the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.
Some may then move on to DECA’s International Career Development Conference scheduled April 25-28 in Orlando, Fla.
DECA students also discover how good business planning can come alongside to benefit others. Last year, they sold white T-shirts at a football game for $8, donating $1 for each sale that resulted in donating $400 to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Meanwhile, as they prepare for the state competition, classmates serve as their candid judges.
Samantha and Gabrielle do their best to persuade their peers why their marketing strategy will generate customer loyalty with sought-after customers: female teens, young adults and mothers with children looking to purchase durable, affordable footwear.
Their advertising plan includes participating in the Run For Funds 5k slated for May 28, 2016 in Seattle. Participants can donate a pair of gently used shoes to the James Fund which in turn gives the footwear to less fortunate children around the world.
“We would also hand out fliers at the 5K and to local universities and colleges, Payless’s target market of young adults,” said Samantha.
Then, a loud silence, broken with an insightful assessment.
“You may want to expound on the James Fund,” interjects senior Caleb Sleeman who, along with Caleb Schantz, will get their chance to practice their sales plan that will pitch a cost-effective teleprompter app intended for digital single-lens reflex cameras. “I’d also recommend a final summation of the expected outcomes as a result of your campaign.”
The critique doesn’t end there.
High-energy DECA co-advisor and marketing teacher Jerry Keron offers Gabrielle advice. “Work on your transitions,” Keron said to Gabrielle. “Your favorite word is ‘um.'”
Learning to Think on Their Feet
“Even if you’re not going into business, you still need to think fast on your feet, and that’s what DECA has helped me to achieve,” said senior Alexa Callaway.
“I was looking at going into psychology but after joining DECA I’ve always been drawn to creative drawing and fashion merchandising plan and I want to get a brand line for children,” said senior Stephanie Birkmeier.