July 7, 2020- When in-class instruction was suspended in March 2020 due to COVID-19, educator Angela Andersen knew she still wanted to deliver the JA entrepreneurship program she previously planned for her grade students. The result was a modified Business of our Own (BOO) program she facilitated with longtime JABC volunteer Brian McArthur. 

The BOO program gives middle school students the hands-on learning experience of planning a business. This includes producing and promoting a chosen product or service, as well as tracking finances and managing a team. 

“We followed the business model canvas in the BOO workbook, said Angela, Department Head, Fine Arts at Queen Margaret’s School in Duncan, BC“We had approximately ten classes, 45 minutes long, together on the Zoom platform. I think the best learning that took place was with Brian and me, live, real time, in the moment with students.  

Angela, who is also an accomplished artist and entrepreneur, used MS Teams as well for her Entrepreneurial 8 students to stay connectedhand in their assignments and receive feedback. 

In addition to target market and accounting practices, lessons also included observations of adaptations in businesses I know, and article review- strategies and characteristics of successful businesses. 

While time was spent on ensuring the students’ business ideas would be financially viable, social responsibility was a big theme. They explored mission statements, values and discussed issues reflecting the current business world.  

Brian McArthur, a retired RBC executive who has been collaborating with Angela at Queen Margaret’s School for the past few years, happily provides his real-world expertise and entrepreneurial mindset to studentsWe focused on the challenges entrepreneurs have had and are continuing to have resulting from the pandemic. There were lot of good learnings through these interactive classes and we had great discussions using screen sharing, chat rooms and other Zoom features.” 

Poster created by Grade 8 student Madison K. for her card business.

The finale of the BOO program is generally a sale day where students set up stands and sell their products at their local school. But due to social distancing, this wasn’t an option for spring 2020. Angela said, “There was no physical market sale, but they did everything but set up and make their product or service. Their final project was a poster campaign, a visual presentation of their product or service. 

Brian adds, “They were quite creative and I think this interactive, virtual delivery of the program worked quite well under the circumstances. We all learned a great deal. 

While teaching online doesn’t replace in-class learning, there are some definite advantages. Angela notes that the video share screens are much better than projected screens in a classroom and it is beneficial to access volunteers or speakers from anywhere. In fact, Brian was able to join one of the classes while he was on a motorcycle road trip on the Sunshine Coast.  

After taking this flexible BOO program with Angela and Brian, students not only understand the challenges and rewards of starting a business, but also the importance of being adaptable. Angela said, “Thank-you [Brian and JABC] for your support and for providing the resources and connections to help these students make sense of a dynamic and changing business world.