FBLA students brew up award-winning business plan

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Thomson, Russell place 3rd at nationals

If Oconto Falls High School graduates Mikaela Thomson and Brittany Russell ever decide to open a coffee house, they’ve got an award-winning business plan to use as a guide.

The 2016 OFHS graduates placed third in the nation at the Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Conference held from June 29-July 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. The girls developed a 30-page business plan for a fictional small business called the Birchwood Brew. The plan included all aspects of the start-up of a food service establishment, including employee recruitment, product inventory, company financials and a marketing plan.

“It’s realistic to what an actual business plans would look like,” Russell said.

The girls developed the framework for their plan while enrolled in a high school entrepreneur class taught by Tracy Tate, who also serves as the students’ FBLA adviser. One of the guest presenters in the class was Sophie Ford, owner of Corky’s Cup of Joy in Oconto Falls, whose business plan was used as a guide in developing the Birchwood Brew plan.

According to the girls’ plan, the eatery serves hibachi-style breakfast prepared at customers’ tables and beverages sold at a coffee bar and through a drive-through window. Thomson said they chose a coffee shop theme because they both like coffee.

Thomson and Russell consulted with Jamee Mangold and Nikki Mikkelson at Wells Fargo Commercial Bank in Green Bay to make sure their financial information was realistic. They also developed and memorized a seven-minute presentation and practiced how to respond to a panel of judges during a question-and-answer session.

“These girls put an immense amount of time, hard work and dedication into their competitive event,” Tate said.

The third-prize award is the best placement OFHS students have earned in over 10 years.

At nationals, Thomson and Russell qualified for the first round of presentations based on their written report. After presenting their PowerPoint to a panel of judges, they earned a spot in the top 14. They presented their PowerPoint to a second panel of judges in the final round.

It was when they stood on stage in front of 12,000 people at the awards ceremony that they learned they won third prize. It was a highlight of the conference for both girls.

“I was ecstatic,” Russell said.

Standing with the other finalists was so rewarding, Thomson said.

“We were so proud of each other,” she said.

A team from Odessa High School in Washington took first, and a Chatham Central High School team from North Carolina placed second.

Thomson plans to pursue a degree in marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Russell, biomedical engineering at UW-Madison.

Thomson competed at the national contest in each of the past four years.

Russell qualified for nationals all four years but did not attend the convention her sophomore year. Last year she placed fifth in Public Speaking II. Russell was recognized on stage during the opening ceremony as one of five members in the nation to win the FBLA Distinguished Business Leader award and a $500 scholarship.

Another 2016 OFHS graduate, Liza Leja, has qualified for nationals three years. Leja and Eliza Bradford competed in the Community Service Project contest this year. They explained the process of developing and implementing a disc golf course in Oconto Falls. Their team qualified for the first round of presentations based on their written report. This placed them in the top 60 nationwide before the preliminary presentation round.

Addison Hatch also attended the conference. She competed in Introduction to Business Procedures, which involved taking a 100-question, multiple choice test.

Besides competing, the students attended workshops, networked and watched other competitors’ presentations. They also visited the World of Coca-Cola, CNN studio and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.