Oxford, N.C. — Granville County high school students just swept top honors in a statewide competition under a program called Virtual Enterprises International (VEI).
Teams compete by establishing their own firm and presenting their “virtual” high-stakes business plan to judges at the state competition. Typically, the annual event has taken place at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, but the pandemic led to the first online or VEI event.
Ten years ago, Granville County Public Schools was the first to bring VEI to the state. It provides teams of students the opportunity to learn how to start and develop their own business.
“They do everything that a real world business will do with the exception they don’t deal with real money. It’s just fake money,” explained Mark Jones, the VEI teacher at South Granville High School and state coordinator for the annual competition.
Jones has seen the program transform students like Jordan Morgan.
“I used to be very shy, very nervous about everything, especially public speaking,” said Morgan.
His firm called “Adrenaline Rush” launched a virtual AirBNB rental. It involved buying properties and attracting travelers to stay there. Morgan said, “We sent out surveys to teachers, students, friends and family to see where or which locations they would want to go to.” He said the favorite properties were the ones he and his team bought with virtual money.
Abigail Humphries’ team at J.F. Webb High School is called “Acelt.” They specked out a decal printing business. She said, “We customize things. We put them on a variety of surfaces, plastic, rubber or glass.” In the competition, she concluded that, “We stuck out because a lot of the decal businesses in Virtual Enterprise have a limited amount of services.”
Humphries said she wanted to learn more about handling money and running a business, and that’s what VE competition provided. “I am the COO, so I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills,” said Humphries.
Her team won second place in the state competition just behind Morgan’s team, which took top honors. Third place went to another South Granville firm called “Carnava,” which ran a virtual carnival food truck.
Even Jones couldn’t have imagined the Granville County school teams sweeping the top three spots. “It’s always a surprise when the kids come out on top,” he said.
The win also caught Morgan by surprise. “I still didn’t feel like we were going to do good enough because there’s a lot of schools out there in North Carolina that do VE,” said Morgan.
Preparing for possible business careers as a team was the prize for Humphries. “You come out with better relationships, and you know how to handle things better,” she explained.
Jones was glad the students’ hard work paid off. He said, “We get to reap the benefits of watching them grow as people and professionals.”
Both Humphries and Morgan stated they have interest in pursuing a business education in college.