Principles of Entrepreneurship class throws students in 'Shark Tank,' teaches them real-world business skills

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth story in a six-part series on Pope John’s new course offerings, which are exercise science, principles of engineering and design technology, principles of entrepreneurship, fashion and retail marketing, sports and entertainment marketing, and introduction to guitar. To check out courses like this or any other of our dynamic educational offerings, visit

SPARTA — The Principles of Entrepreneurship course at Pope John XXIII Regional High School can be best described as a mini “Shark Tank.”

“Exactly,” Pope John senior Hope Pinsonault said. “It is set up to be that way.”

Like the award-winning show that showcases entrepreneurship in America, the Principles of Entrepreneurship class — a new offering at Pope John — allows students to get a feel for what it is like to be a person who starts his or her own business and tries to make it a successful enough company that it can possibly earn potential investments from business tycoons one day.

“This is really cool,” Pope John senior Brendan Carlson said. “It’s a really good experience to learn about how to start a business, what basic economics are, how to handle finances and other aspects about the field.”

The idea of having an entrepreneurship course at Pope John was proposed last year by Mr. Brian Carlson, the department chair of the Business Department. Mr. Carlson, who was a CEO of a small business that went from $8 million to $20 million in sales over an eight-year period, felt that it would be a great avenue for Pope John students to explore.

“I was introduced to various types of entrepreneurs during that time,” Mr. Carlson said. “I always thought it would be interesting to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to high school students. I thought it would be very important to introduce this class to Pope John. There are a lot of intelligent, self-motivated students at Pope John who I think would be interested in exploring the opportunity to start their own business in the near future.”

Once the course received approval from the school’s Academic Council, it was put into place for the current school year. So far, it has been a great course for the 26 students to experience.

The students have not only learned the basic principles of entrepreneurship, but they have also learned about the demands of being an entrepreneur and the impact entrepreneurs have on the economy. They’ve done this while working in small groups and developing a product that they present to a target audience at specific points of the school year. Like “Shark Tank,” the groups receive feedback from the audience regarding their product.

Pinsonault’s group, which also includes, seniors Toni Ippolito, Cameron Sacco and Kelly Ryder, made a vegan chap stick in which you can swap out different flavors. As for Brendan Carlson’s group, which also includes seniors Patrick Beggan, George Bennett, Rag Patel, Hugo Giles, Paul Bello and Jack Ryan, it created an all-in-one hamper, washer and dryer for people who primarily live in small apartments.

“This gives you a feel for what the business world could be like because you are actually showing your product to people and trying to get them interested in it,” Pinsonault said. “As the year has gone on, our product has evolved. We are getting more of an idea of what consumers want in our product. It’s really cool.”

“It’s not a class where you have a lot of tests or quizzes,” Brendan Carlson said.
It’s more about how you come up with a team that can produce a product and try to convince business people or manufacturers that it is worth their time and money.”

In addition to their group work, the students get a chance to listen to guest speakers to discuss his or her experiences on being an entrepreneur and how he or she got started.

“We had a person come in who was about 20 years old and he’s already making $80,000 a year as his salary for his business,” Brendan Carlson said. “He showed us what he does, how he was able to go to Jets or Giants football games and connect with people. He can relate to us because is not much older than we are and he said we have the potential to be successful just like him.”

This class has certainly made an impact on students like Brendan Carlson and Pinsonault.

For Carlson, taking this class has fueled him to pursue a degree in the business field when he attends Catholic University next fall.

“I had never thought about entrepreneurship until this class,” Carlson said. “I’m definitely interested in it now.”

For Pinsonault, she plans on majoring in marketing when she attends Loyola University of Maryland next fall.

“This class helps you determine whether you can stand on your own two feet and be strong enough to stay in this field,” Pinsonault said.


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