Fort High trio relished business competition

Courtney Koval, Shaun Egan, and Scott Howarth aren’t sure if they’d like to eventually pursue a career in business.
But the Fort High students proved it wouldn’t be a bad decision with their performance in a province-wide virtual business competition earlier this semester.
The trio of Grade 12 students were tops among their peers in teacher Shane Beckett’s marketing course and then earned a berth in the online semi-finals, where they faced off against other top-earning groups in the region.
They agreed the competition was a valuable learning experience.
“I thought it was interesting because you’ve got to know how much advertising you need for a product, what people want in a product, and how important advertising is,” Koval said.
“It’d be just like running a real business,” added Howarth.
The competition, administered by Carleton University in Ottawa, was set up so that the students, who were tasked with marketing backpacks, started a new quarter each week.
They poured over quarterly statistics and analyzed a number of graphs to plan their next move. When the dust settled, the Fort High trio earned about $16 million in virtual bucks over the course of the three-month assignment.
“It was good because every week it was new,” Howarth said.
“It was different all the time,” echoed Egan.
The students, who kept a close eye on how their earnings compared to that of their classmates, had to manage inventory, determine a price, and direct sales support, advertising, and manufacturing.
Beckett said the competition gave students an in-depth look at all the variables involved with running a business.
“It helps them to see what goes on behind the scenes to get a product on the shelves,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about who has the best product, but who has the best idea.”
Egan said the assignment took on new meaning when students learned Ontario-wide bragging rights were at stake.
“It started to get competitive once [we] found out we could go to provincials,” he noted. “People were trying to beat us because we were on top the whole time.”
He added the competition during the online semi-finals was much stiffer than it had been in class.
Koval, Egan, and Howarth elected to stick with what had helped them capture the top spot in their class—charging the maximum price of $100 per backpack.
But they had trouble making the grade against students from other schools, many of whom were charging only $30.
“Those teams had it planned out,” said Egan, admitting that crafty guesswork could be credited for some of his group’s in-class success.
The Fort High reps finished 19th out of the 22 teams that got the opportunity to showcase their savvy in the regional semi-finals, which included participating schools within the 807 and 519 area code.
Regardless of the outcome, the trio agreed the virtual competition was a better learning tool than simply reading books or writing tests.
“We had learned about what you need to know to run a business but we never really got numbers put in front of our face,” Egan said.
Still, Koval thought the project could have been even more beneficial if the students actually could see what the competition was offering, as is the case in the real business world.
“I’d rather do it hands-on than through the Internet,” she remarked. “You couldn’t see what your competition was doing and what their product was. If we could have seen what they had and what their price was, it would have made it easier.”
While the three own top honours for this year’s group, Beckett said he’d like to see his future marketing class take on a similar assignment.
“Most definitely,” he said, adding the competition generated a lot of friendly banter among the teens. “I was really impressed with how the majority of them took it.”