BUILDing Better Futures

Kenna Beban, Opinion Editor

Silicon Valley’s next entrepreneurs had a chance to sell their original products at Woodside’s BUILD Spring Sales Showcase this past Wednesday.

The BUILD program provides Woodside freshmen with the opportunity to start their own business, get insight from mentors in the entrepreneuring world, and gain valuable skills the students will use throughout high school, college, and beyond.

“They learn a lot of really important skills through running their own small businesses,” Jaclyn Babcock, the program manager, said. “These guys get to say they were a CEO at fourteen years old.”

Students had their first go at making a profit on Wednesday, where they set up tables to display their products in the quad during lunch.

“We’re trying to sell our products to other students,” Joseph Aguilar, a Woodside freshman, explained. He joined BUILD because he liked the idea of “doing what [he wants] and being able to make a profit out of it.”

His group was selling a ‘book light’, a bookmark with a light attached to it. It was priced at eight dollars, which Aguilar says is “affordable compared to our competitors.”

On the other end of the quad, Kimberly Cervantes and her group were selling cards that light up when a certain spot is colored.

“[BUILD] helped pay for the [materials], they helped us come up with ideas, and they gave us the time necessary,” the Woodside freshman said. At the beginning of the program, the students had to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists in order to get the funding they needed.

“It’s kind of like Shark Tank,” Rosa Martinez, another Woodside freshman and member of the BUILD program, remarked.

“At the end of the program, they’ll pay back their venture capital money, and whatever profit they make they’ll get to keep,” Babcock elaborated. “It’s a legit business, they have real money, they’re dealing with real money.”

The program makes sure it teaches students what it takes to be successful in the competitive world of startups.  

“I’ve learned how to communicate with others, how to socialize, and how to dress appropriately for a business interview,” Kimberly Cervantes said. “It develops your business skills and it’s very helpful for the future.”

Those tools can be boiled down into six Spark Skills, displayed on the wall of Woodside BUILD teacher Jesus Cervantes’ classroom: grit, collaboration, communication, problem solving, innovation, and self-management.

“Those skills have been identified to create good entrepreneurship, and just overall a good student, a good person,” Cervantes explained. “If you have those skills you’re gonna do pretty good in life.”

These are especially important to instill in BUILD’s students, who don’t always have the easiest pathway to a college education.

“We want to make sure we’re supporting students that are going to want extra help and support going into college,” Babcock said. “We do that through entrepreneurship.”

Cervantes explains that they want to “give them that good foundation in the beginning, in their freshman and sophomore year.”

The BUILD program also uses Silicon Valley’s unique resources to give its students a peek into the business world.

Grit, collaboration, communication, problem solving, innovation, and self-management”

— BUILD's Spark Skills

Ariana Arrenas, a freshman BUILD student, said one of her best experiences was their “first showcase at Google,” where the students showed off their products to Google employees. They also regularly have mentors from other tech companies like Microsoft and local startups.

“We got feedback on how we could do better,” Arrenas said, and they used that feedback during Wednesday’s event.

“One team was very successful, they were able to sell over half of their product. The other ones sold a couple items,” Cervantes remarked about the recent showcase at Woodside. “The first selling event is always the trickiest, because it’s at school and kids are embarrassed because it’s in front of their peers.”

But the BUILD students still have plenty more opportunities to improve, at competitions with other schools and other, more public selling events.

“The biggest event we’re really preparing for is next week, it’s at the Box,” Cervantes said. Both freshman and sophomore BUILD teams, as well as teams from other local schools, will be showcasing their products in the Spring Sales Bazaar at Box in downtown Redwood City.

The BUILD program not only creates budding entrepreneurs, but also a supportive community that lasts throughout high school.

“At first kids are like, what? Why are we here? I don’t know if I want to be in it…” Cervantes laughed. “But at the end they’re like, thank God I joined.”