TENNERTON — Students in eighth-grade English classes at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School spent January working on business presentations as a class project.
This week, they had to go before the Shark Tank, albeit a friendlier version than what might be portrayed on TV.
Teacher Tiffany Board said this is the third year she has had her students complete the Shark Tank project.
“This project is intended to take the place of an argumentative or persuasive essay,” she said. “It’s meant to persuade the Shark Tank to buy into their business. They can use up to $100,000 to create their business. The business must be located in Upshur County. So often you hear them complain that there is nothing to do here, so now is their opportunity to place something in Buckhannon.
“They have to work everything from the ground up. They have to find commercial or rental property, purchase anything that they might need for their business — whether appliances or ingredients.”
The students also must submit a written business plan, which is the English portion that Board grades.
“We spend about two weeks and I have Shark Tank members from government officials to board members to teachers in the school come,” she said.
The judges use a rubric to grade the students on their knowledge of the business, professional dress, business plans and notebooks and all the advertisements that the students put together.
The project requires students to partner with others.
So, what were some of the popular businesses this year?
“This year, there are a lot of logging businesses,” Board said. “This is now the third year I have done this project and this is the first time I have had any type of timber or logging business, and I have a few.”
This is also the first time Board saw two different presentations for salons.
“The biggest seller is something selling food, like bakeries,” she said. “I at least have one to two bakeries per class period.”
And while students are cooking up their business plans, Board says the project incorporates more than just English skills.
“One thing I love about this project is it is cross-curricular,” she said. “They have to do math, they have to learn those math strategies to figure out not only what their cost is but what their net profit and revenue will be in a year. It encourages confidence ... They are dressed and ready to go. I’m proud of them to gain the knowledge and confidence to be able to present in front of a group of strangers.”
“They learn those persuasive skills in order to encourage the Shark Tank to buy into it,” she added.
Lori Hagi with Mountain CAP of West Virginia and graduation coach Joyce Harris-Thacker were two of the judges in the Shark Tank for Tuesday morning’s presentations.
Both came away with a lot of baked goods to sample and some compliments for the students.
Hagi said, “They did some really good presentations this morning. There were lots of baked goods which is a nice perk when you are a shark.”
Harris-Thacker added, “The students really think we need more sweet treats and ice cream and/or yogurt in the community, because there were several of those.
“We had several excellent presentations and some not quite as prepared as the others, but all in all, they were good.”
Hagi said the judges were looking for a complete business plan showing the students researched the cost of the item or service that they are offering, that they have researched locations and the cost associated with that and advertising.
Both judges said they had seen the TV version of “Shark Tank.”
Hagi said, “We are a little friendlier sharks.”