A unique collaboration between Fisher’s Office of Global Business, Battelle for Kids and school districts in rural Appalachia is providing an underserved population of future business leaders with an introduction to business and entrepreneurship.

As part of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative (OAC), Fisher hosted the first-ever CIBER/OAC Entrepreneur Export Competition, a “Shark Tank”-style event that provided high school students in the OAC network the opportunity to explore a more global world by creating, or finding, a local product or service to export to another country.

“We have very few electives and almost nothing in business,” said Debbie Edgar, a teacher in the Belpre City Schools district. “This project got the students into the business community where they visited the local small business bureau, the chamber of commerce and learned from business leaders. They learned about starting a small business and did some good networking. They also did several public speaking events.”

With the guidance of Ohio State student mentors, teams wrote research-based marketing plans for their product or service. The plans informed a marketing pitch that was then delivered to a panel of experts and “investors” at an event on Fisher’s campus. Nine high school teams from five school districts from Southeast Ohio participated.

Belpre High School won the competition, with each student earning a $250 book scholarship for their first year at college.

The competition was made possible by the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), a Title VI, federally funded program at Fisher that is making an impact through a number of initiatives at Fisher.

Ohio Appalachian Collaborative 2
Students receive feedback as part of the first-ever CIBER/Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Entrepreneur Export Competition.

“This event and the entire OAC program is making significant in-roads into middle and high school student populations to create critical educational opportunities, including awareness of business, entrepreneurship and the importance of thinking globally,” said Joyce Steffan, director of Fisher’s Office of Global Business. “We were excited to be a part of the program because, as part of a land grant institution, we have a responsibility to educate and to improve the lives of Ohio’s residents. What better way to do that than to get these students excited about business on a global scale by opening the doors of Ohio’s flagship university?”

OAC students participating in the pitch competition, school administrators and parents also had the opportunity to tour campus.

“Getting on campus was huge,” Edgar said. “The students really felt special and connected to something bigger than they've ever seen.”

Plans for a second CIBER/OAC Entrepreneur Export Competition at Fisher are underway, and schools like Belpre are expanding their commitment to the program. Students participating in it in 2017-18 will have their own class period in which to work on the project.

“This project helped to push students out of their comfort zone, and to expand their thinking and knowledge to a new level,” said Katie Brown, a teacher at Maysville High School. “It also prepared my students for the level and amount of work that would be required of them at the college level.”

The Ohio Appalachian Collaborative was created in 2010 to provide enhanced educational opportunities to more than 34,000 students in rural school districts, strengthen the ties between education and economic development, and bring students hope and aspiration for a brighter future.