Oak Park and River Forest High School students got a lesson in starting a local business and a little real-world experience in the month of September from entrepreneur and Oak Park Village Trustee Deno Andrews.
Andrews led two Small Business Management classes at OPRF for about three weeks last month on his plans to launch a community-owned café in northeast Oak Park.
The project is real – Andrews already has recruited more than 200 people interested in investing in the business – but students were tasked with developing a business plan, scouting potential locations and developing a marketing strategy.
Andrews, an entrepreneur who owns Felony Franks fast-food restaurant, 6427 North Ave., said he was attracted to the OPRF business program because of the business-incubator program at the school.
"This is completely disrupting the way teaching is done," he said. "When I was here learning business, we were crammed into desks, writing on paper – zero creativity.
"I took an accounting class; I took a business law class; I took a general business class; and everything was memorization out of a book – absolutely no real world experience."
Zoe Smith and Hannah Keidan, both 17-year-old seniors, worked as managers for the project.
Smith said she chose the elective business class because she's interested in pursuing management, marketing or consulting in college.
"I just wanted to test this out since the OPRF business school is really known and cool," Smith said.
Keidan also was attracted to the class because of the OPRF business program's reputation.
"I thought this project was really interesting because it actually gives you real experience within a business," Smith said. "I'm really excited to actually go and visit this business that we worked on."
Peter Hostrawser, the class instructor, said the business program at OPRF aims to bring in public figures and real business owners to instruct and mentor students. That's how school faculty was put in touch with Andrews.
"Deno's name kept coming up with all of our mentors," he said, noting that Andrews was recommended more than once. "A lot of the coaches coming in said, "Deno is doing this – you should talk to him about this program, and it was the community-owned café.'"
He said Andrews has led the class three times a week for three weeks.
"It's funny because I'm in front of the students all the time," he said. "But when a business owner comes in (students) react differently."
Andrews has said the café project is expected to take about $700,000 to get up and running; as of early August, he had had financial commitments of about half of that from independent investors.
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