FORT MILL — A short walk from the main commons area, among language and computer classrooms at Fort Mill High School, startup company Visionary, Inc. is quickly becoming the go-to spot for students wanting iPhones, tablets and tech gear.
Well, sort of.
“Keep in mind, it’s virtual,” said Avery Carter, vice president of marketing.
Carter is a junior at the school. He’s one of more than 20 students in a virtual enterprise class that facilitator Renita Rochester believes is the closest they’ll come to navigating in the corporate world pre-graduation. Students participate with thousands of schools online in creating, distributing and marketing products.
They also take on more menial tasks – expense reports, company user names and passwords, audit prep, spreadsheet checks.
“Basically it’s a real world business, but it in a class,” said CFO Ryan Long, a senior in his second year with the class. “We don’t just get to do the fun stuff.”
Upper level management must interview at least twice for the jobs they want. All employees get “paid” and most have virtual company stock. They have credit cards, bank accounts. And every Wednesday is corporate attire day, meaning employees tend to stick out from the crowd in the cafeteria or between classes.
Senior Halle Hillman is vice president of human resources. She figures everyone goes into business sooner or later, so Visionary, Inc. gives students like her an advantage in knowing what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
“This, to be honest, should be a mandatory class in high school,” she said.
The class is in its seventh year at the school, and others in the area have had it or still do. Rochester said it’s the hardest but most rewarding teaching she’s done, managing personalities rather than instructing curriculum. Students come to the class having already taken accounting or business, technical education or the like.
“We use this as a course that will culminate their knowledge in other courses,” Rochester said.
Amid loan applications, salaries and rent to be paid, business is going well. In its first month the company has nearly 300 virtual sales, including 180 at a recent trade show at the school.
There are times when virtual business can be confusing. Junior Olivia Adams, vice president of marketing, said sometimes potential customers at lunch or elsewhere are just about ready to pony up for the technology.
“We’re not actually selling you a real product,” she said. “The idea of what we’re selling you is real.”
Advertising and marketing departments produce brochures, fliers and catalogues, while planning for open houses or trade shows. Accounting tackles accounts payable and receivable. Students say they’re not sure how familiar would-be employers are with the program in terms of the class boosting their resumes. But they’re confident they’ll be prepared in other ways to wow potential bosses.
“It’s really teaching you some soft skills that you’ll use in your future,” Carter said. “Until you’re out in a business, you don’t really know.”