Aaron Mitchell enjoyed being the CEO of Focal Point, Inc. It was a company created by students in the J.P. Taravella High School’s Virtual Enterprises International program.

Focal Point, Inc., served as a promotional firm for other companies in a virtual, student run, $70 million economy. It was part of yearlong project completed by students with a strong interest in entrepreneurship. And the students won a state championship for their business plan in a competition held by Virtual Enterprises International. They participated in a competition at Nova Southeastern University.

As CEO, Mitchell was in charge of various departments including human resources, information technology, design, marketing, sales, communication, accounting and administration. “My job with the company was making sure it made a profit, was heading in the right direction and that all the departments were working together efficiently,” said Mitchell.

Because of their success at the state level, the students qualified to compete in an international business plan competition in New York. They competed students from throughout the United States and other nations. Although they did not win there, they got to participate in a trade show where they created a booth and market their products to other firms and generate sales. And they had to buy from other companies. They were part of the Global Youth Business Summit. They students enjoyed the opportunity to see New York. “It was an amazing experience. I developed as a leader and I enjoyed the opportunity,” he said. “I learned how to cooperate with other people and solve problems.”

The goal of the program to is to teach high school students how a business works by allowing them to set up and run a company. All the organizations are connected through Virtual Enterprises International. It is run along the lines of an apprenticeship with the young people learn by practicing. The students created an ecommerce website connected through Virtual Enterprise.

“The students live it day by day,” said Laurie Acosta, who is the lead the teacher for the Academy of Finance at J.P. Taravella. She facilitates the Virtual Enterprises program. “They go through what a real startup business goes through. They write a business plan, get funding from virtual enterprises and really do it all. They learn what it takes to run a business in the real world,” said Acosta.

And the money involved is not real money, the program provides a simulation of how a business works. The students are given a job within the company and are expected to do it well. The corporation must pay taxes. They learn how to make purchases on behalf of the corporation. They receive a paycheck and learn how that money would be spent on basic expenses such as rent, food and utilities. They young people are learning about personal finance.

“This year we won first place in the state competition. This was a tremendous learning experience for the kids,” said Acosta. “They are no longer in a typical classroom environment. They are in corporate environment that is more like a think tank.They have nice office furniture and a conference room.”

Lauren Echols, vice president of sales for Focal Point loved the experience and the chance to travel. “We all wrote the business plan together. During the presentation, I explained the promotion sales plan and marketing sections. I had never been to New York before and I met some many people from other nations. I think we learned a lot,” she said.

This program is expanding other schools. Acosta wants the business community to get involved and providing mentoring to the students.