Originally posted on The Buzz Magazines by student reporter Sutton Walsh
If you were to ask a typical high school student what they do during their free time, you may be bombarded with responses such as sports, theatre, eating, homework, or “wait, there is free time?” Post Oak School High School students, however, often participate in unique activities including leading a school club, working passionately in an internship, or, more recently, developing and enhancing entrepreneurial skills.
In December of last year, Alan Ying arrived at the high school with a U-Haul of Papa John’s pizzas, in hopes of luring food-driven or curious students to his presentation on Original Nations, his new production development platform. Students participating would work with a professional team to launch their own products. Not only would students gain valuable experience in marketing, designing, and selling, but a portion of product proceeds would benefit a charity of their choice. This free experience would have great monetary reward and develop a student's creativity, perseverance, and responsibility, in line with the Montessori method of teaching.
I nearly choked on my fourth slice of pizza—this sounded like the coolest opportunity ever! Immediately after the presentation, I (and a stampede of other business-minded students) charged towards the stack of application forms. Weeks later, I was selected to be a member of the inaugural “test team.”
Our first work assignment was to collectively edit the Original Nations website to be more appealing and informative, the perfect task for teens who live on technology! We then developed our own brands, created a personalized logo, and watched our product idea come to life. Once our campaigns went live, we practiced our marketing skills and advertised to family, friends and the public, taking advantage of social media. Our final products are now being manufactured and shipped with branded packaging and, to my mom’s delight, a handwritten thank-you note.
For my Original Nations product, I designed a pair of plush pajama shorts, perfect for wearing during a worldwide pandemic. I practiced being decisive as I chose my brand name, Simply Sutton, and coordinating logo. I found myself learning to voice my opinions and ideas to adults while also leaning on their expert opinion.
Many emails, Zoom calls, and fabric swatch deliveries later, I proudly unveiled my final product and launched my first campaign. My initial orders mainly consisted of excited family members (and a bulk order from my enthusiastic grandmother!). Since I met my campaign goal so quickly, I was able to present a second round of sales and used social media to advertise. Shockingly, hardly 24 hours later, I met my second campaign goal. My mom’s Facebook friends proved to be huge fans of pajama shorts.
This opportunity has opened my eyes to a new type of working environment. I now know and understand the behind-the-scenes of how a website functions and the nuances of starting your own company. This experience made me realize that maybe I don’t want to be a doctor; maybe I want to pursue a career where daily tools are creativity and collaboration rather than a stethoscope and thermometer. Ultimately, Original Nations has tested my (and other participants’) ability to transfer values learned in a Montessori classroom and apply them to a real-world marketplace.