The Bloomington High School Virtual Enterprise team Case of Armor competed nationally at the Virtual Enterprise National Business Plan Competition in New York City on April 4th and ended up placing in the top 5% of the nation. Virtual Enterprise Business Plan competitions involve student teams developing virtual businesses.
The six students, with guidance from their teacher Mrs. Robin Buckles, wrote very detailed business plans and pitched their product to a panel of judges who are experts in the business field. Students must be prepared to answer a variety of questions from the judges ranging from the virtual company’s financials to their proposed product success. This program gives students a real-world look at how to successfully create and promote a business from the ground up.
Case of Armor was faced with numerous challenges due to COVID-19; the students began their business plan journey at the start of the 2021-22 school year when COVID-19 restrictions were still in place throughout the state. Mrs. Buckles and the students had to get creative in finding space to practice and obtaining appropriate technology to present as they progressed through the competition. CRY-ROP (Colton, Redlands, Yucaipa Regional Occupational Program) was kind enough to assist Case of Armor in providing them with space and technology to compete.
The Colton Joint Unified School District (CJUSD) ensured the team had their travel plans set in anticipation that out-of-state travel will once again be allowed, and thankfully, it was. Students were able to present their 10-minute business plan in person, which consisted of an opening, business rationale, company overview, competitive analysis, external environmental factors, a marketing plan, and financial statements. All of this information was conducted in an energetic oral presentation that flowed seamlessly from beginning to end.
Case of Armor is comprised of five seniors and one junior that includes a pair of siblings. Their bond is evident from the moment you meet these students. The team members are Samantha Figueroa, Chief Executive Officer; Javier Murillo, Chief Financial Officer; Alexander Villaseñor, Chief Operations Officers; Steve Castanon, Chief Information Officer; Andy Medrano, Chief Communications Officer; and Isabella Murillo, Chief Marketing Officer and the only junior on the team. Most of the team has been in the Business Pathways program at Bloomington High School since their freshman year. The Business Pathways program is one of the most highly coveted programs on campus in part because of its successful record. Under Mrs. Buckles’ leadership, several other Bloomington Virtual Enterprise teams have competed in New York and placed high in the competition.
The virtual product Case of Armor created is both interesting and timely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The product is a cell phone case that combines hand sanitizer and a secure cell phone case in one product. The product is designed to be convenient with safety at the forefront. Although the competition did not require an actual prototype, the team was required to share designs in their business plan in addition to a sample marketing plan, risk analysis, projected profits and losses, and much more.
“We learned how to be in a professional environment, presentation skills, being ready on the spot, everything that goes into making a successful business,” noted Chief Information Officer Steve Castanon.
“Presentation skills are the number one skill I will take away from this. The Business Pathway pushes you out there to learn good communication skills,” noted CEO Samantha Figueroa.
“Virtual Enterprise as a whole teaches fundamental skills you will need, being a Virtual Enterprise student taught me how to communicate more. I was a shy kid and Virtual Enterprise helped me open up, be confident and talk to people more,” said Andy Medrano, Chief Communications Officer.
“The most valuable thing I learned was the ins and outs of what it takes to run a business, it looks cool and easy but there’s so much more,” said Javier Murillo, Chief Financial Officer.
“Learning teamwork and communications were most valuable; teamwork will take you a long way. In the future, I will open up a lot sooner and am now willing to talk to anyone. I’m able to break the fourth wall and know how to break the ice with other conversations to get to know people,” noted Chief of Operations, Alexander Villaseñor.
The Colton Joint Unified School District Board of Education recently recognized Case of Armor and Mrs. Buckles for representing CJUSD so well on a national platform. Case of Armor made their presentation to the Board of Education and community which was very well received.
The defining moment for Case of Armor came at the State Championship level, Judge C provided the students with feedback that said, “good but not special”. This initially upset the students and eventually became the spark they needed to persevere. That one comment fueled the students to prove Judge C wrong. The quote still lives on Mrs. Buckles’ whiteboard in her classroom to this day, where the students wrote it immediately after the State Championship to look at daily as their inspiration.
“First round in NYC, I had tears in my eyes, they just nailed it, I knew they were going to advance.” Mrs. Buckles was right, Case of Armor moved from top 40 to top 20 in the nation. While the final results are not in yet, the students ended the competition in the top 5% of the nation out of an original 3,000 teams in Fall 2021. “I just took the most humble students to NYC, with the drive to prove everyone wrong and they just did, each one of these kids is so family-oriented, that carried over to how they treated each other and their drive to get past the quote, they did it. That deemed them special,” noted Mrs. Robin Buckles.