MSD DECA hosts ‘Dive Into Entrepreneurship’ event as a mock Shark Tank to prepare for state competition

A group of young entrepreneurs present their product “Big Enough Tracking” to the “Sharks.” DECA hosted this event to mimic that of the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”

Ivy Lam, Senior Feature Editor

Casual button down shirts to black ballet flats. Vibrant coral props at both ends of the auditorium to gentle white illumination from stage lights above. In the midst of a school auditorium, student volunteers bustled about, helping coordinate judges and competitors to ensure a successful event.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School DECA chapter hosted a mock Shark Tank, where student entrepreneurs made business propositions to a panel of guest judges, on Tuesday, Dec. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Alternately known as “Dive Into Entrepreneurship,” the event was intended to promote creativity, improve presentation skills and spread the ideals characterizing entrepreneurship to interested high schoolers across the community.

The idea was organized by junior Macy Meis, the DECA VP of NAF (National Academy of Finance) and Vice President of Girls Who Start. After spending the end of the 2021-2022 school year cleaning the DECA officer closet in one of the advisors’ rooms, Meis came across old pictures and brochures from a Shark Tank event hosted five years ago. She wanted to revive the opportunity with a new spin.

“For the past few months, I’ve been reaching out to the Parkland Chamber of Commerce as well as any other professional connections I, or our DECA chapter, had to acquire judges,” Meis said. “I had also spent months pushing this event to students all over the community, even if they are not a member of DECA or a student at MSD. I was able to do this through our DECA chapter’s advertising outlets as well as by creating my own advertising outlets specific to the event, namely through social media.”

Meis has worked on the event since last school year, even securing the auditorium in August to stay on track. With help from the DECA advisors–Mckenzie Malone, Mitchell Albert, Sharon Cutler and Lisa Webster–and officers, as well as Key Club and National Honor Society members, the event ran smoothly. Additionally, the Eagle Regiment band contributed by displaying their props from their marching show throughout the auditorium; the aquatic-themed decor offered a touch of irony considering the “Shark” aspect of Shark Tank.

Numerous DECA students from both the Academy of Finance and Hospitality and Tourism classes presented their business plans. Many saw the event as an opportunity to receive feedback on their hypothetical companies and to gain new ideas by listening to other participants.

“Our team, ‘Permanent Prosthetics,’ prepared for Shark Tank by writing our 20-page DECA paper and turning that into a presentation. We were able to take our research and make it into a powerpoint to present to the judges and those who came to watch,” senior Jordyn Klein said.

Klein worked with seniors LJ Russinoff and Isabella Ortega on an International Business Plan. Their imaginary non-profit organization was based in Lublin, Poland and focused on helping Ukrainian soldiers and refugees, as well as amputees in Poland, and the surrounding countries.

“Permanent Prosthetics” won first place and took home a $150 prize. Additionally, second place received $100 and third place received $50. The money could be put towards personal expenses, registration for DECA competitions or purchasing materials for their actual presentation in January. All participants received 10 “DECA Diamonds” for competing; this could be used as a bonus grade in Pinnacle.

“Winning first place felt fulfilling because we did not only spend a lot of time on our presentation but on our paper in general,” Ortega said. “Shark Tank helped me realize how much I need to practice my presentation since I was very nervous [in the mock event] to the point where you could hear it in my voice.”

The mock Shark Tank even helped competitors with public speaking and oratorical skills. For individuals who struggled to get up and talk in front of a crowd, the event served as both a challenge and opportunity to grow.

Competing in the Independent Business Plan category, seniors Claire Wang, Jia Ying Chen and Eman Ali created “NewEco,” a company focused on creating reusable packaging and implementing refill stations where consumers can reuse their product containers.

“This Shark Tank experience has allowed me to get a glimpse into the world of entrepreneurship. I’ve not only been able to propose solutions for something I’m passionate about, but I’ve also expanded on it by creating a successful business pitch and presenting it in front of potential investors,” Wang said.

After months of preparation, Meis is proud of the end result of “Dive Into Entrepreneurship,” especially the dedication competitors showed and assistance from other MSD organizations. She hopes that more students and community members will continue to support the MSD DECA program and its student entrepreneurs in years to come through annual mock Shark Tanks.

“From directing this project, I have learned the importance of stepping up to the plate,” Meis said. “Most importantly, I learned what our generation has to offer when it comes to entrepreneurship. We just need to give each other the support and guidance to reach our dreams.”

Currently, DECA members are competing in their respective district testing events from now until Monday, Dec. 12 to qualify at the state level. For students who wrote business plans, the next step is creating a presentation summarizing their hypothetical business and its components. The end goal for most competitors is making it to the Florida DECA competition in March and then to the International Career Development Conference in April.