Sept. 6, 2019
The Darla Moore School of Business partnered with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce to host in late July the annual South Carolina Business Week. In its 36th year, South Carolina Business Week was an intensive business and leadership workshop provided for 113 high school students from 30 South Carolina counties.
The rising sophomores, juniors and seniors spent the week living in a UofSC residence hall and heard from more than 30 prominent business executives and Moore School faculty on topics including basic finance, ethics in business, leadership profiling, the significance of diversity in business and entrepreneurship. The students also learned about how to conduct themselves in interviews, the importance of and how to build credit and the finances of everyday living, said Cynthia Bennett, vice president of education and workforce development for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
“The South Carolina Chamber values the South Carolina Business Week program because it allows for the preparation of young adults for entrance into the business community by introducing them to the principles of leadership and the American free enterprise system,” Bennett said.
Beyond practical life skills and exposure to business concepts, participating in South Carolina Business Week gives students confidence that they can attend, engage and compete at a world-class business school like the Moore School. Business Week also provides high school students with the experience of living on a college campus, said Deborah Hazzard, Moore School’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion and a management clinical assistant professor.
“South Carolina Business Week is a unique opportunity for students to engage with their peers from across the state and to come to one of the premier business schools in the world,” Hazzard said. “It’s ultimately an opportunity for high school students from South Carolina to become really knowledgeable and insightful relative to business concepts and entrepreneurship.”
The students were split into teams of 10-12 at the beginning of the week and were tasked with creating their own food truck business. Over the course of the week while working with corporate partners, they had to create a detailed business plan and compete for the most unique and best developed idea for a panel of judges. The winning group created a food truck that would serve gourmet food while traveling to tourist hot-spots in Washington, D.C. They were the only group that received a perfect score from the judges for their idea.
“The food truck business competition with businesses coming up with their own innovative ideas helps us with out-of-the-box thinking,” said Jadia Riley, a rising Lakewood High School junior in Sumter. “We learned business aspects, how to conduct a business plan, how to construct it. We learned some marketing and finance. We did a lot of extensive research.”
During the week, students can start to narrow their choices for college majors and professional fields of interest after hearing from a variety of company leaders.
“The students’ interactions with professionals provide them with the opportunity to gain information on a variety of career options,” Bennett said. “Many students begin to develop informed preferences related to college degree majors and professional fields during South Carolina Business Week.”
In addition to learning about majors and their corresponding careers, the students also learn a great deal about the Moore School and the opportunities it offers.
Before South Carolina Business Week, James Agens, a rising Spring Valley High School senior in Columbia, hadn’t seriously considered attending UofSC and the Moore School, but he said he intends to apply this fall and possibly major in marketing and international business.
“The Darla Moore School of Business is probably the best business school in the entire country, maybe even the best internationally,” Agens said. “It’s beautiful, and I learned that a lot of the professors here are experienced business owners. They’ve been in the real world. I’ve realized UofSC and the Moore School have everything I want [in a college]. I learned through South Carolina Business Week that business is not just management; it’s numbers, it takes creativity. It’s a lot more than what I thought it was.”
A first-generation American whose family is originally from South Africa, Agens said South Carolina Business Week showed him that Columbia is bigger and more diverse than he realized having grown up in its suburbs.
“Business Week changed my mind. UofSC was home to me, so I thought I needed to get away,” Agens said. “But attending Business Week taught me through the program and the friends that I made that Columbia is a lot bigger than I thought. The Moore School is a lot more diverse than I thought with different cultures and different mindsets.”
To be eligible for Business Week, participating students applied and had to demonstrate leadership skills through school and community activities, rank academically in the top one-third of their class and obtain a school principal or guidance counselor signature.
Four students, Jalen Canada, Zakarra Brown, Molly Brackett and Ronald King II, received scholarships at the end of the week.
With a $75 application fee, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, along with key corporate sponsors, covered the week’s residence hall accommodations, three meals a day and all instructional materials. The Moore School provided all of the daytime instructional and activity space.
Corporate sponsors not only donate money so the cost is minimal for participating students, but a number of businesses lend their employees to provide presentations and serve as camp counselors, who work side by side with the students for the duration of the week, Bennett said.
While it’s important for the companies to encourage their employees to volunteer for a program like South Carolina Business Week, working with the students is rewarding for volunteers, too, said Alan Jones, a supply chain engineer with Michelin in Greenville, South Carolina, who has been volunteering with Business Week the past five years.
“To see students come in as freshmen or sophomores and work their way through year after year, it’s rewarding for us to see the sustainability of the program, the growth of the students and see them learn communication skills, leadership skills,” Jones said. “To see the returning students have the leadership edge to guide these teams, it’s good to see their growth, from networking and leadership to their communication skills.”
Charlotte Brailsford, a rising senior from Bishop England High School in Mt. Pleasant, learned a great deal about leadership when she served as one of the CEOs for the mock food truck companies.
Her mother, Teresa Brailsford, encouraged her daughter to attend South Carolina Business Week to experience university life and hopefully get some direction and focus for her future plans.
“South Carolina Business Week is important for high school students to learn teamwork, how corporations work and the importance of networking,” Teresa Brailsford said. “Like Dean Brews said [during the closing ceremony], ‘Networking is one of the most important things in life, and it’s not what you know, not who you know but who knows you.’”