Student-Run Business Continues Wylie Entrepreneurship Culture

By Timothy Chipp
Abilene Reporter-News, Texas

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Students at a Texas school are learning the ins and outs of entrepreneurship through first hand experience creating and selling their own wares.

Abilene Reporter-News, Texas

Wylie High School has a new dog this school year, but it’s not slobbering all over faces.

At least not yet.

This dog isn’t a canine, it’s a student-run company. The Purple Dog Co., created by a group of business management students taking an entrepreneurship class, has been operating as a window for these students to experience what it’s like running successful businesses.

Some results have been great, some not so much. It has all served as a learning experience, though.

“This gives the students a project-based learning experience,” said Jackie Powell, who teaches the class. “They’re not just learning what marketing is, they’re getting out and marketing. There are real-world successes and failures.”

While the track record of the Purple Dog has been hit and miss so far, the students running the company have high hopes for an upcoming event they’re sponsoring to take advantage of something they have in abundance.

Student-created artwork, crafts, jewelry, food and activities will take over the Wylie High School cafeteria from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s the Bulldog Christmas Market, the first major event the company is putting together.

It’s a perfect opportunity, with free admission and live music for the holidays, to get some Christmas shopping done while supporting the students in their learning spaces as they work to build real products worthy of consumption and purchase.

Principal Tommy Vaughn set out to create a school store and informed Powell and fellow business teacher Reagan Berry of his interest. In developing The Purple Dog Co., they helped turn his dream into a reality, of sorts.

The ultimate goal, Vaughn said at a recent Wylie Independent School District board meeting, is to have the students earn money through selling their wares. It isn’t reality yet, as logistics and tax rules would need to be studied, but it could become reality.
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Meanwhile, in an attempt to build a large audience, Purple Dog students have been visiting local businesses to do some marketing for themselves. They’ve been hanging flyers throughout the Wylie community as they try to build their reach ahead of the shopping extravaganza.

Being visible and repeatedly informing people is a lesson they learned early in the process of business management class. And it was a tough lesson to learn.

For one of its first forays into business, Purple Dog members looked to market a little cheer. In what turned into a bust, they offered their clients (fellow students) some red clown noses as a costumed idea for a school spirit week themed for the circus.

A combination of disinterest on their own part and a belief the marketing would take care of itself kept the idea from being a hit, junior Enrico Lorenzo said. Oh, and perceived embarrassment also played a role.

“High school students don’t want to look embarrassing,” Lorenzo said. “We didn’t push it hard, didn’t advertise enough. We still got about a quarter of the school to buy in, but we were hoping for about a half.”

Lorenzo got involved in the entrepreneurship program at Wylie last year when he took a class through teacher Reagan Berry. That class, the first of its kind at Wylie, encouraged the students to start their own businesses.

Through the coursework, talking with visiting entrepreneurs and continuing forward with the program in his second year, Lorenzo said he feels inspired to one day make his own money and be his own boss.

Seeing the reaction from Wylie businesses after posting flyers for the Christmas Market has helped, too.

“I think it’s cool how the whole Wylie community has come together to help out this little school business,” he said. “It’s stressful sometimes, but we get to figure out how it’s all going to go.”

Lorenzo said he and his small group of marketing students in The Purple Dog Co. are buying in to the idea of the school store. He sees it being online soon.

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