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Rhinelander High School students build a business as part of the Wisconsin Business World Program

Katie Thoresen
Students build a prototype for their business during the Business World program at CAVOC Tuesday.

Students at Rhinelander High School are getting a taste of what it’s like to start their own company.

Dozens of Rhinelander High School students split up into teams work at rows of tables at CAVOC.

They’re each designing a prototype for their company.

For sophomore Sampson Shinners’ group, it’s a Roomba-type cleaning device.

“It’s like a robot that can vacuum but also has a mop function. Kind of like a Swiffer. It shoots water. You could vacuum up first, then spray a solution, then it would scrub it with a rotating sort of sponge,” said Shinner.

Junior Margaret Lamert’s team is more focused on motivating those students that struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

“A headboard that has a built-in alarm clock, outlets, speakers, stuff like that. The catch is that it vibrates your bed whenever your alarm goes off so that it really just gives you that extra motivation to get out of bed,” said Lambert.

While these students’ products may only be built out of cardboard and craft supplies, the process of coming up with an idea and forming a business around it is a very real one for entrepreneurs.

Michelle Grajkowski wishes she had a better understanding of a lot of the skills these students are learning now before she started her literary business.

“I really want to give middle and high school students the ability to just explore and learn things I wish I would have known when I started my business. It’s really just kind of surface level what they’re learning, but it does feel like a real deep dive to them,” she said.

Grajkowski is the senior director of the Wisconsin Business World Program.

Katie Thoresen
Teams of students work to build a business during the Business World program at CAVOC Tuesday.

One-day programs like this one at Rhinelander High School are taught all over the state.

Students have to name a CEO, design a product, build a business plan- including figuring out how they’re going to finance it, and then present their project.

“The goal is just to figure it out. As an entrepreneur myself, that’s what I had to do. So that’s how I visioned this, basically just letting them sink or swim,” said Grajkowski.

The program also brings in local business leaders to work with the students and judge the final presentations.

“I want the kids to think about the role business play in their communities so that when they actually go into the workforce, they think about that, ‘What can I do to give back, to build my community strong?” said Garjkowski.

While Shinners and Lambert aren’t sure if a career in business is for them, they appreciate the experience they’re getting.

“I’m not too into business. I do enjoy the teamwork, making stuff with the team, and figuring it all out,” said Shinners.

“To be honest, this is not what I expected it to be. I expected it to be more boring, lectures about business stuff, but this is a lot more fun than I anticipated it to be. It’s very hands-on. It’s really cool how we just create our own business for fun,” said Lambert.