For some, business means three-piece suits and glass conference room tables. For junior Mihir Kurup, it means an annual competition against students from all across Maryland at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where he must demonstrate the entrepreneuring skills he’s spent the past months learning.
Kurup is in the Atholton DECA–Distributive Education Clubs of America. Club sponsor Mr. Christopher Mackecknie described it as “a marketing club”, and discussed the different activities students can participate in, depending on their interests when it comes to business.“For example, there’s sports and entertainment marketing, there are different categories of entrepreneurship, or they can do categories in money and finance,” he said.
Much of the focus in DECA meetings is geared towards the annual competition, which took place on Thursday, February 21st this year. Another club sponsor, Mr. Matthew Lathroum talked about how students picked a topic in business that they were interested in and researched it so as to prepare. According to club sponsor Mr. Lathorum, students prepared for the tournament by selecting a business-related topic that they were interested in and researching it. There was also testing involved─about a week prior to the competition, students answered a collection of 100 questions within an hour. The area of business the questions were based around depended on the area of business the student had studied and researched in the weeks counting down to the test. All students qualified for the competition automatically; the test did, however, factor into the score they would receive from the judges.
Despite the time that students put into preparing for the test, acing it is almost unheard of:
“The variety of questions are so spread apart… I’ve graded these tests for DECA before, and generally, out of a hundred questions, the highest scores come in the mid-70s,” Mr. Lathroum said.
Attending students were required to wear business attire and follow the professional dress code at the DECA competition. Junior Olivia Lampf, who researched marketing, said, “Once you’re around all these people dressed like that, and all the adults [are] around you, you’re kind of stiff, and you know to be respectful.”
Some were more experienced than others. This was Mihir Kurup’s second time attending the competition; he first became interested in DECA during his sophomore year, when he heard Mr. Lathroum talk about the club in his Principles of Business class. Since then, he has become interested in the entrepreneurial aspect of business, which made up his prompt at the competition.
Kurup was given a prompt for a business- a company that would deliver movie theater snacks to people’s homes- and thirty minutes to organize a presentation for a judge. “We had to explain what the concept was, how it would operate, what the overhead cost would be, what the risks might be, and who the general competitors would be,” said Kurup.
Reflecting on the atmosphere of the competition, Kurup observed that how nervous people felt varied depending on whether they had a spontaneous prompt, like he did, or had been working on their project long-term. “We were much more calm than people who got creative projects to present a month in advance.” Kurup was well-prepared despite the unrehearsed presentation; he and his partner Justin Wovas will be going to Orlando in April to attend a DECA competition at the national level.
Lampf was also given a prompt and thirty minutes to prepare something to present. Instead of creating a business model like Kurup, she was asked questions about sales and how to sell the product.
DECA is a club that serves to encourage students to go into business, and to give them a place in which to grow their interest and passion for entrepreneuring, marketing, finance, or any other area they might be interested in. “We used vocab that we learned in our marketing classes,” Lampf continued. “Anyone could do it.”