For Comal Independent School District students who want to get straight to business, a new class being introduced at Canyon and Canyon Lake high schools is letting them do just that.

The district’s Business INCubator class, piloted at Smithson Valley High School last year, is being incorporated into Canyon and Canyon Lake High Schools this year. The class teaches students the basics of business, and allows students to test their entrepreneurial savvy, all culminating up to a Shark-Tank style “Pitch Night.”

The young start-up company “representatives” — usually juniors, and occasionally seniors — then pitch their product or service to a group of executives who will decide whether to invest. Community businesspeople act as mentors and coaches to guide the students along their business journey.

The idea came to Comal ISD after Career Prep Coordinator Leslie Weil, who teaches the class at Smithson Valley, heard about the program in the Austin area and spoke more with Superintendent Andrew Kim about the class.

“The program started in Chicago,” Weil said. “We had 22 students finish the program at Smithson Valley last year.”

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching the class is seeing how excited students are to put everything together, Weil said. 

“You can tell they really just want to get to their business idea and we have to say, ‘Hold on, we have to go over the basics of business first,’” Weil said.

Weil, who has a marketing background before becoming a teacher, said she’s enjoyed seeing what the students are capable of.

“It’s great to see those wheels spinning and to know only great things can happen,” Weil said.

DeAnn McCoy, who teaches yearbook, cheer and principles of marketing and finance at Canyon Lake High School will also teach the program at Canyon Lake this year. McCoy said she’s most excited to see the students’ pitch night.

“I’ve seen the national pitch night where the top teens get to go pitch in Chicago and that was really cool,” McCoy said. 

McCoy has 20 students signed up for the program this year, and said she can’t wait to see the students learn about building relationships, maintaining a business and more.

“About 80% of startups fail in their first year,” McCoy said. “So talking to them about why, that’s something that can really help them in the future.”

As a mentor and coach for the program and as the community champion for Canyon Lake, Corey Martelli, Martelli Insurance Agency, said he hopes more local businesspeople will get involved with the program.

“One thing I liked about being a mentor was the give back, giving back that knowledge I’ve learned over 30 years to give it back to kids,” McCoy said.

Kerry Gains, assistant superintendant for Comal ISD, said Kim has been really helping move Comal ISD toward preparing students for career preparedness and this program is just proof of his initiative to make sure students who want to enter the workforce after high school can.

“He’s really wanting to make sure students feel comfortable enough to follow their dreams, maybe even start their own business, after school,” Gains said.

For more information about the program visit https://academy.comalisd.org/apps/news/article/1023438.

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