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WHS students create, run own business

PHTO BYANDREW CHRISTMAN/ achristman@wabashplaindealer.com DISCUSS: Tyler Olson speaks with the students who own and operate Student Services, a business created through the INCubatoredu program at Wabash High School.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Students at Wabash High School are taking the initiative to become young entrepreneurs by creating their own business through one of the corporation's new programs for the year.

Student Services, a functioning company created by WHS students Isabel France, Kallen Kelsheimer, James Booth and Lucia Pena, aims to help the community through offering services like yard care, gutter cleaning and shoveling snow. Since forming the company in early November, the group says they have been contracted for nine jobs so far.

The original idea for the company was to aim their services to the elderly population in the area, according to Kelsheimer, but after completing market research and completing "problem interviews" with potential clients to see how necessary their service would be, it was determined the scope was too narrow. Instead, the service is now being targeted throughout Wabash for anybody interested.

Before choosing their services and rates, the four team members for Student Services conducted a competitive analysis of the area to determine what the competition was offering. Once the analysis was complete, the team decided to offer their service for a flat fee of $30 for the first hour and $20 for every hour after.

“We had to have $30 to cover our insurance and workman’s compensation once we start hiring people,” Booth said.

While the team handles each job they are contracted for, the plan for the company will be to keep it in the area and hire high school students exclusively.

“As it expands, we want to employ high school students so they don’t have to work every day after school, they can choose what they want to work and the hours they want to work so they can have money for the weekend,” Kelsheimer said. “I think the good thing with us hiring high school students is there’s never going to be a shortage.”

Looking to the future, the team members want to keep the business going as long as they can with more employees and interns to get hands-on work experience.

Tyler Olson, who teaches the INCubatoredu course, said the students taking part in the program are learning a wide variety of skills, ranging from time management, public speaking, work ethic and presentation. The final goal of the course will be to create a successful business for the Wabash area.

“Each group has some juniors, so theoretically they could come back next year and as a class, run their business,” Olson said.

By the end of the academic year, Student Services will have pitched their business to a board of advisors to further develop their service and make a county-wide pitch to go after grant funding and speak with direct investors.

Despite experiencing the stress of being a business owner, the group said they are glad to have the chance to learn what it takes.

“I think the idea of building a company shies people away from actually doing it,” Kelsheimer said. “They see it costs money and there’s so much work. The thing is, it’s always going to be a lot of work. If you want to do it, just do it. There’s no perfect time to build a company.”

WHS is currently only one of two schools in the state taking part in INCubatoredu, and it is the only public school offering it at this time.