Keeping learning relevant: FlexTech High School students work with community leaders to pitch business ideas

Some students at FlexTech High School in Brighton had the chance to win cash awards for taking part in a Shark Tank-style competition called the Vacant Lot Project that had them develop detailed plans for a new business in Brighton, and then pitch their proposals to a panel of business and civic leaders from the community.

The project began back when students and staff were still in the building, and then wrapped up virtually last week.

FlexTech High School is an innovative, project-based, competency-based charter school in Brighton. Students and teachers develop projects that draw on the local community while maintaining high educational rigor and competency.

Students in Kelsea Combs’ economics class recently completed the Vacant Lot Project. This project involved dozens of community partnerships all working to support innovative student entrepreneurial design.

To start off the project, each class was assigned a vacant lot or building within downtown Brighton. These four lots were selected by the Brighton Downtown Development Authority and the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce. Before the shutdown began, students had the opportunity to visit these sites and do market research in the downtown area to gain perspective on what might benefit the local community the most.

FlexTech High School students tour one of the vacant properties in Brighton earlier this year.

All throughout the project, each student had access to a community member who offered expertise in areas of architecture, business ownership, marketing, design, or research and development.

The project culminated in a Business Pitch Competition that was held virtually on May 1. For this competition, the top four students were selected to present their pitches to community members and compete for an opportunity to win prize money up to $1,500 made possible through the generous contribution of LakeTrust Credit Union.

This Shark Tank-style competition provided students with real-world experience pitching a business idea and receiving feedback from community members on the strengths and opportunities of their proposals.

McKenna Vincent took first place with her idea for WinePenny Records, a dual record shop and concert venue.

Zachary Larsen’s Games and More proposal took second place. Hayleigh Stoutenburg proposed a community garden, which took third place, while fourth place went to Aurora Cardoni for her Cardoni’s Cat Cafe proposal.

FlexTech High School students tour a vacant lot in Brighton earlier this year, before the closure moved all learning online.

This experience was truly a community effort, Combs said. She thanked all of the participants, contributors, and supporters who helped make this project a success, including these business and civic leaders:

Scott Griffith – Griffith Realty

Jim Muzzin – Brighton City Council member

Christopher Klebba – Northern Diamond Management

Jim Barnas – Contracting Resources

Piet Lindhout – Lindhout Associates

Lisa Nelson – Hush

Ashley Cirilli – Quicken Loans

Matt Vetter – Schafer Construction, Inc.

Chuck Fellows

Jim Combs – Rollin Stone Wood Fired Pizza

Marcia Gebarowski – Ann Arbor SPARK

Nate Geinzer – Brighton City Manager

Tim Corrigan – Corrigan Oil

Brighton Downtown Development Authority, Brighton City Council, and LakeTrust Credit Union. The project was inspired and supported by Youth Entrepreneurs.

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