St. Andrew’s Students Earn First Place Finish at SEP Challenge

On Wednesday, November 20, the 12th grade Economics class competed in the Southern Entrepreneurship Program’s ARRIVE! workshop at the Clyde Muse Center on the Pearl campus of Hinds Community College.  Among more than 400 high school participants and roughly 50 teams from schools across the state, a team from St. Andrew’s was awarded first place honors for its promotion and value-added concept of a product featuring a Mississippi Agricultural enterprise.

The Southern Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2007 for the instruction and advance-ment of entrepreneurial education and innovation among Mississippi’s high school students.  It is under the direction of Dr. James Wilcox of the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Edu-cation (CEEE) at the University of Southern Mississippi and sponsors events like the ARRIVE! workshop in both the fall and spring semesters each year.

At this year’s ARRIVE! workshop, the participants first heard from a panel of entrepreneurs that included Lindsey Hutchins (Lindsey Clare Dance Company), Kristen Ley (Thimblepress), Jessica Simien Lofton (Simien Media Group, LLC), Bilal Qizilbash (EasyKale), and Jenni Sivils (Prickly Hippie).  Each of these individuals shared with the audience their stories of challenges, setbacks and triumphs of owning a start-up business. Afterward, students were afforded time for some Q&A with the panelists.

Next the “challenge” for the fall ARRIVE! workshop was introduced by Mr. Justin Wilkes, Community Economic Development Coordinator for Rural Development with the U.S. Dept. 
of Agriculture.  Mr. Wilkes framed the “challenge” with the following information:  

  • Agriculture is the leading industry in Mississippi, employing either directly or indirectly approximately 30% of the state’s workforce, and accounting for $7.4 billion in gross revenue per annum.
  • The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture offers a $250,000 federal grant each year that goes largely unclaimed primarily because so few people even know about it.  It is called the “Value-Added Producer Grant” (VAPG) and it is funded for the purpose of helpingagricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income.  (https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants)

The ”challenge” put before all of the high school teams (4 – 8 members each) assembled was to develop the concept of a “value-added product” utilizing one of the top agricultural products from their respective counties of residence, to design and create a t-shirt promoting their “value-added product” idea, and to devise a 30-second “pitch” to present to the workshop judges and to their audience of fellow high schoolers. 


One St. Andrew’s team decided to promote the idea of partnering with the livestock producers of Hinds County to collect and remove their animal waste free of charge.  The collected waste could then be re-processed with “soil nutrient additives” from composted inert landfills and packaged to be sold as “organic soil amendments.” The name of their proposed business venture was “Entre-manure.” 

The other St. Andrew’s team sought to capitalize on current market trends away from animal and dairy based foods in favor of plant-based food choices.  Noting that one of Madison County’s leading agricultural products annually is soybeans, and also citing reports that the “trade war” of the current administration with China has negatively impacted Mississippi’s soybean farmers, the team proposed to process soybeans for sale to the makers of frozen soy-based “ice cream” and/or “frozen yogurt” style products.  They even looked to perhaps engage in a partnership with the “Luvel” brand and its manufacturing plant in Kosciusko, MS. They dubbed their proposed idea “Ice Bean” and their pitch captured the First Place honors for their team. The graphic design and artistic talents of Jonathan Buckley on their t-shirt undoubtedly sealed the win for them.
 
Pictured above are the combined teams from the 12th grade Economics class: (left to right) Noel Wiggs, Ann Ross Berry, Joel Murphy, William Langford, Emerson Robinson, Jonathan Buckley, Arness Georgetown, Auburn Hamme, Jason Murphy, Aaron Cooper (Not pictured: Kate Rodenmeyer, Christopher McCain, and Hartmann Marble-Wright).
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