Woodside Wins Big at 2018 BUILD Buisness Plan Competition

Woodside Hosted 16 Teams from Three Schools in Culminating BUILD Event of the School Year

Aaron Raubvogel and Photos by Joe Balsama

WOODSIDE, CA — After eight months of hard work, 16 companies of four to six freshmen from Woodside, Sequoia, and the East Palo Alto Academy shuffled into the Old Gym on Friday for their last BUILD event of the year, The BUILD Business Plan Competition.

BUILD is an entrepreneurial program for low-income high school students. Students are randomly divided up into teams at the start of the year and have to work with each other to create a viable product that they market and eventually sell.

The BUILD Business Plan Competition, in its 19th year, is the final BUILD event of the year and is a culmination of everything the students have learned. The winning team of the competition walked away with $1,000 for their business. Karlos Guerra, a judge for this event, explains the criteria the judges look for when evaluating each company.

“There has to be absolute passion behind a product creation [for it to succeed]. There has to be some sort of belief behind the product,” Guerra says. “The product has to be also useful for the audience and for the world… and there has to be a sense of not giving up.”

This year, Woodside performed particularly well, with first place, PenCo, and third place, Beanie Peeps, both hailing from Woodside. The second place team, Head On, was from Sequoia.

These teams used skills they learned throughout the entire year towards winning this competition, such as how to be an effective entrepreneur and the benefits of cooperation.

“[One of the largest] challenges was working as a team,” Woodside freshman Alexandra Gonzales explains.  “At first we were grouped with a bunch of strangers and you have to grow together, and build together and work as a team.”

BUILD operates as a class during the first year.  Placed into random teams (companies), students must develop products to develop, manufacture, and sell. Throughout the year, companies participate in various events to further their project along.

At these events, students are given the opportunity to talk with venture capitalists who could invest in their company and sell their finished products to the general public. This Friday’s event combined aspects from many of the other events students attended.

Jesus Cervantes, the WHS advisor for BUILD, mentions that “this is a competition that puts everything together. There is sales events… and it’s a reflection on what they have learned through… the whole year long process.”

The lessons these students learn has prompted BUILD to expand across the United States. In addition to the Bay Area, BUILD now operates in Washington, DC, Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles at over 30 different schools. The skills BUILD students develop while in the program stick with them throughout high school and beyond.

[One of the largest] challenges was working as a team. At first, we were grouped with a bunch of strangers and you have to grow together, and build together and work as a team.”

— Alexandra Gonzales

“I think this gives them different skills of how to talk to people, how to interact with others, how to be responsible young adults, and how to collaborate with other people,” Cervantes comments. “There are a lot of skills here that are transferable to not only business but to the classroom.”

Even if their team did not win the 2018 BUILD Business Plan Competition, students will take away the ability to work on a project for months on end with the same drive as when they first started.

“When you’re working on something that is going to contribute to the world, creativity doesn’t come very easily to the mind,” Guerra concludes. “I think the ability to think and to think over time is something they learn.”