Story by Katie Hohman
Photo courtesy of SPHS Virtual Business Team
Virtual Business teams Pebbly and MyMeals placed at the National Business Plan competition on Monday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 21, scoring fourth and fifth, respectively. The virtual contest featured over 600 competitors and reaffirmed SPHS’ spot as one of the top high schools for virtual business.
The varsity Virtual Business company, Pebbly, is a pet rock company inspired by the work of Gary Dahl, the original creator of the pet rock. Pebbly brings pet rocks to the 21st century by blending a physical product with a virtual experience.
Customers can buy a traditional pet rock or opt to indulge in a virtual rock instead, which the varsity team has named Pebbly Pals. Through these Pebbly Pals, the company hopes to help young people develop stronger social and emotional skills, both during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The JV Virtual Business company, MyMeals, focuses on selling and delivering healthy meal kits to individuals. Through their kits, the company is targeting young adults who live alone and might be too busy to make their own food.
Each team’s success at nationals comes after months of practice and revision, with the help of advisor Cathy Mason. In order to make it onto the national stage, both teams had to place at the regional and state competitions, while also making it through two rounds of nationals. In the end, it was only the top eight teams that were allowed to move on to the final round of nationals. SPHS’ history of success at nationals created additional pressure for both teams; the 2019 varsity Virtual Business team, iKOMO, and the 2015 varsity Virtual Business team, Oasis, both placed first at nationals.
“We were so surprised that we made it past [the first round of nationals] but our last round, in the top eight, felt really good,” senior Olivia Yanover, Pebbly’s Chief Marketing Officer, said. “It was one of our most confident runs… We had all of our energy and passion.”
The Business Plan competitions for both varsity and JV required each team to adapt to the new online format. The two groups had to develop a written business plan and work with their technology departments to create a presentation that summarized their company, which they then presented to a panel of judges via Zoom.
Despite the challenging competition style and format, members of the Business Plan teams for Pebbly and MyMeals have maintained strong socio-emotional connections and continue to develop new ones. The group-focused class was able to teach students about teamwork, which allowed each member to feel more confident during competitions.
“Business Plan has really taught me what it’s like to not only be a part of a team but a friend to other people,” Yanover said. “I think that [Pebbly Business Plan] works so well and we have done so well because we are such a tight group. Just learning how to bounce off of each other’s energy and how to understand when one person is feeling down… is something I am going to bring with me to other groups [in the future].”
The Virtual Business program recently finished its tryouts for the coming school year and competitions for the 2021-2022 school year will begin in December.