Virtual enterprise takes on Big Apple

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Irvine High’s Virtual Enterprise in front of the Concrete Jungle before their competition.

After hours of research, hectic board meetings and financial planning, this year’s Virtual Enterprise (VE) students have become the first team from Irvine High School (IHS) to make it all the way to the National Finance Competition.

Supported by a nationwide nonprofit, VE students have six months to create a successful business. The members that led this year’s team are seniors Elizabeth Jiang as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Riddhi Kumar as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Anders Lodin as Chief Operating Officer (COO), Bala Janahan as Director of Marketing, Diego Valencia Rios the Director of Sales, Elias Sawary Director of Human Resources and Shrey Gupta Director of IT and Design.

“The process was ‘organized chaos,’” Sawary said. “It was founded through first brainstorming and establishing our departments, to then doing research and establishing our company’s product, name, logo, mission, etc.; all of the basic characteristics of a company.”

Virtual Enterprise pose before they present their business to the judges.

At the beginning of the year, the group was determined to create a profitable business. They chose to create Kitastrophe; a company that creates kits providing essential tools for communities in any disaster.

“The class is divided up into departments and we all work together to run it as a real-life business,” Lodin said. “Our company is called Kitastrophe and we sell emergency preparedness kits.”

The team was invited to New York City when Jiang’s financial plan placed in the top seven of the Southwest region. Initially, the team could not find the funding to attend the competition on the east coast, but in the end, the Career Technical Education division at the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) provided $10,000 worth of funds for the trip.

“We got the news of the invitation and our teacher told us that while that was good news, we didn’t have any money to pay for the trip,” Rios said. “So during those next few weeks, the seven of us who went had to find a way to get money for the trip. I would attribute almost all of the efforts to my peer Shrey Gupta since he was the one who talked to most of the IUSD executives who helped us find the money for our class.”

Arriving in New York, the team made their way to Long Island University in Brookville. There, the team would present their company to judges who were experienced on Wall Street.

“The trip to New York was amazing,” Kumar said. “When it came to our competition, it was really nice getting to meet other companies and getting to see where they are from and how they got there. We got to meet different VE companies so it was really cool getting to network and meet like-minded individuals from across the country.”

Irvine High’s VE team was unfortunately eliminated in the first round of the competition, as only six of the eighteen teams present were able to advance into the next round. Nonetheless, IHS students found an amazing opportunity to practice their networking and presentation skills at this competition.

Virtual Enterprise and advisor Gary Russell outside of Times Square in New York City.

“I was excited when we [made it to nationals],” teacher and advisor Gary Russell said. “Unfortunately our business plan didn’t qualify but our financial plan did. Our quality work has always been enough to compete nationally.”

This year was the first year that Virtual Enterprise qualified to compete in the National Finance Competition in New York City. The team was able to pitch their company and visited New York City over spring break.

“I joined Virtual Enterprise because it would help me learn some important life skills,” Jiang said. “I would definitely recommend taking this course. Students are given relative freedom to figure out how to run a company by themselves and are able to pick up soft skills along the way.”