Digital Media Class Inspires Next Gen Entrepreneurs

HUBBARD, Ohio — Coming up with a business plan is much harder than Hubbard High School senior Brynn Cook ever assumed.

To be fair, not many high school students know what’s involved. But students in Josh MacMillan’s photography and digital media class will have a good understanding of how to start a business when they leave his classroom.

For years, part of the class’ curriculum had been to come up with a business idea, to create a logo and merchandise to go with it. The students would then use their graphic design skills to assemble a presentation board for the class. But MacMillan, an art teacher at Hubbard High School, says he wanted to take it a step further.

“It always appears that the happiest people I know work for themselves,” MacMillan says. “So if I can get the students to think about something for themselves, why not try?”

To build the curriculum, MacMillan researched articles in Forbes magazine and leveraged his own knowledge about the cost of supplies that he gained from growing and canning produce from his backyard garden.

This year the class is digging deeper into the specifics of running a business and is thinking about storefront floor plans, logistics for providing goods and services, interviewing local business leaders about entrepreneurship, and achieving financial literacy.

“I thought if I was going to start a business at age 40, let’s say I want to stop at 60. That’s 20 years of having a business,” MacMillan says. “What could that have meant if I were to learn this stuff when I was 15 or 16. Or at least have the idea of it?”

Cook enjoys writing and editing. So her project is to create a plan for Red, a magazine inspired by the Taylor Swift album of the same name. The publication would provide a forum for young writers and would cover a wide range of topics, she says.

“Kids can write about pretty much whatever they want – but it’s getting their voices out,” Cook says. “I want it to be something like that to get young people more inspired to write”

The most challenging part of the project thus far was figuring out the financing, she says.

Cook didn’t realize businesses need to take into account every last expense, from the big purchases – such as commercial real estate space and equipment – down to every last pen and sheet of paper.

“It’s not even something that you really think about. But, you actually have to pay attention to the cost of those,” she says.

To help students wrap their minds around financing, MacMillan is providing them bank register books from Huntington Bank. And he’s teaching them how to itemize everything they need for their businesses.

“Most kids don’t know how to use a checkbook,” he says.

MacMillan will start them off with a numerical budget and instruct them on how to record services and transactions in the register books.

Finances were also a challenge for Evan Flynn, who decided to open a bakery as her project. After going through the project, the sophomore says, she’s not sure a bakery is something she’d want to pursue.

“I feel like it would be very hard competing with big businesses,” Flynn says.

However, she remains interested in owning her own company some day, which she says she likes better than the idea of working for someone else.

Evan Flynn says the project instilled in her the idea of working for herself.

“I think it’s cool that you make your own schedule and you’re your own boss,” she says.

Flynn says the project grounded her in terms of thinking about future careers. She plans to attend Ohio University after high school and is considering majoring in engineering.

Sophomore Brennan Yohman is seriously considering opening a skateboard and clothing shop one day, turning his skateboarding hobby into a career.

Yohman already has experience designing his own T-shirts and hoodies with iron-on vinyl produced by using a Cricut machine. So he would produce those in-house, he says. He decided the skateboards would be purchased from other manufacturers for resale.

“It’s just really hard to make a skateboard. You can’t use regular tools,” he says.

The biggest challenge, Yohman says, has been determining where to locate his shop and its market. He considered opening his shop in Hubbard. But after researching the market, he’s not so sure.

“There aren’t many skateboard shops [in Hubbard]. But I don’t know how big the scene is for skateboarding because there aren’t many places to skate,” he says. “I could go to California. But there’s already plenty there. People might not want it. And it’s pretty expensive to live there.”

Yohman wants to pursue his shop idea as a career and says MacMillan’s class gave him the perspective he needed.

“I never took the time to research these types of things but now I have,” he says. “I figured out the cost of having a building to sell at and different things like that.”

Not all of the students plan to pursue their entrepreneurial brainchildren after they graduate.

Cook aspires to go to college and do social work, she says. If that doesn’t work out, she says, journalism is her second choice.

Whether that includes eventually publishing Red, she says the class is giving her a better appreciation for what it means to be a business owner. The skills will also apply to life regardless, she says.

“Tallying the cost of things – I’m going to need that no matter where I go because I’m still going to have to buy my own supplies for certain things,” Cook says. “Even owning a home eventually, I’m going to have to tally the cost of random things that I never would have thought before.”

Even if his students don’t start a business after high school, MacMillan says the knowledge his students take away from the project is a tool that will benefit them later in life. It also shows them that there are alternatives to college when it comes to setting a career path.

“Depending on what you want to do, you don’t have to go to school for four years for your trade, for your degree,” he says. “People can just have a business based upon a skill that they have rather than the piece of paper that they had to get to be able to do it.”

Pictured: Josh MacMillan’s students are learning the basics of entrepreneurship.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.