Mount St. Mary Academy represented the United States in an international business competition this summer. Two teams from the Kenmore school's SAGE program went up against school-based businesses from 26 different countries as part of the SAGE World Cup. Both teams, representing for-profit and not-for-profit businesses took home fourth place awards.
SAGE, or Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship, part of MSM's honors program, allows students to start and manage their own businesses, then compete against one another on national and international levels. This past May, two of MSM's student businesses - Essence, a scented room spray company, and Business Buzz, a marketing firm - took first place in the national competition in Henderson, Nev.
Marissa Brandel and Ceilia Rahill, of Essence, represented their 17-member team in the for-profit category.
"I chose to be in Essence because I use products similar to it," said Rahill, 15. "I thought it would be a great experience to learn more about the marketing side. That's something I have been interested in for a future job. This is a really great experience for careers that I might like to do. I get first-hand experience."
Brandel, 16, liked the public speaking aspect. "I really like speaking. I knew they presented in places and was really interested in that dynamic," she said.
The teams had a practice competition at Daemen College in spring, where they came in second of four teams. First place went to Business Buzz. Then they traveled to Nevada to go up against other American schools.
The girls work together after school and during free periods to prepare their product line and their presentation, which were judged by the measurable and proven impact the company has, what community resources they used, sustainable business practices, succession plan and use of mass media and social media in promotion.
"I was kind of nervous being in front of the judges, because you don't know the questions they're going to ask you. We were so educated on our product, we didn't fall across that problem," said Brandel.
"I don't think the hardest part was presenting," said Rahill. "I think it was all the work leading up to that. So, you just want to make sure you really present your product in a way that shows how hard you worked on it."
All team members have jobs based on their strengths and abilities. Some handle social media. Others do the marketing or finances. "We split up to make sure everyone has a voice and can do something that they're actually good at and something that they want to do," explained Brandel.
Through it all, the young businesswomen learned how to work as a collective crew.
"I learned teamwork is very important," said Rahill. "Because our team is so big, we have 17 members, communication is sometimes hard. I think now that the year is almost over we've really developed a strong communication network. We're more of a unit."
Business Buzz, comprised of just three students, describe what they do as "community activation" as it does more than market concepts and brands. "We take an already existing idea and then we morph that, usually towards teenage or youth audiences because that's where we specialize," explained Emily Bingham, the 16-year-old CEO.
They worked with Colvin Cleaners to help spread the word about their annual Gowns for Prom program. For the past 12 years, Colvin has collected, cleaned and handed out prom dresses for girls who otherwise could not afford to have them.
"We're the first official teen input," Bingham said. "They hired us because social media is such a growing field. It's necessary at this point. We knew a lot about that because we're teenagers and that is our area."
Their work involved more than creating Facebook pages and tweeting. They alerted members of the community in a more direct way.
"One of the big things we did was make databases for Colvin Cleaners of all the local churches and schools in the Buffalo area," explained Abigail Bradley, 15. "From those databases, we called each of the schools, each of the churches, and told them about the program and asked them to spread the word to the community within their school or church. So, we got donations in as well as spreading the word to the girls to come down to Shea's to get a gown."
They also volunteered at the distribution event, helping people pick the right dress for them. Colvin Cleaners saw 4,000 dresses come in this year, 1,000 more than last year. That means Business Buzz improved the intake by 33 percent.
The team has also worked with Essence, and Live! Starring ... You, a youth media organization, for a handful of projects.
Through the project, they learned communication skills. "As teens we take these skills for granted, but it's really important to communicate and keep up with your client," said Brill, 16.
The teens competed against 30 countries.
Mount St. Mary has gone three years in a row to the world-level of competition. In 2015, Sweet Fortunes, a cupcake business from Mount St. Mary's, placed third at the SAGE World Cup in Seoul, South Korea.