Education Cheat Sheet: Boardroom to Classroom

Local kids are learning from local businesses with exciting partnerships and projects.


Photo: Courtesy of Maui Preparatory Academy


Simply stream an episode of “Shark Tank” (or check out the original British version called “Dragon’s Den”), and you’ll see how gripping learning can be. On these shows, inventors and entrepreneurs of all ages, including many teenagers, pitch their business plans to a small group of famous investors. The investors gush over certain pitches and lambast others.


It’s made for TV, but the lesson plan is a good one: Students work in groups to research, develop, and refine a business idea. When it’s ready, they clearly and convincingly pitch the idea to a team of experts. Then, they receive real-time, verbal, constructive feedback.


This real-world, collaborative and interactive model of learning is a business-world paradigm that can light up a classroom. When students are exposed to the people, culture and customs of business, they are empowered to engage with real-world problems. When students are taken seriously by actual professionals from a whole range of industries, they see a vision of future opportunities, meet role models, and discover what excites them.


By one estimate from the Economist Group, there are some 900 different industries in the world. That is likely a low estimate as new jobs and industries are invented relentlessly. From massive (aerospace, energy, agriculture) to medium (hotels, hospitals, newspapers) to small (the corner market, the mom and pop restaurant) industries, each is a world into itself.


Public, private, and charter schools across Hawai’i are working to build connections between the classroom and the boardroom.


Public charter school Hawai’i Technology Academy runs an internship program that integrates students with working professionals all over Honolulu and the state in a whole range of professions, including information technology, publishing, and earth sciences. At HTA, professional consultants directly engage students to provide work, support, and advice to real businesses. In one case, two students are working with Honolulu Rail Transit to integrate student artwork into the Waipahu train station. In another, students are working hand-in-hand with Dolphin Quest Hawaiʻi to develop better curriculum for school groups.


Lahainaluna High School works with Ka’anapali Resorts to give students access to lectures, internships and conferences, to learn about hotels, customer service, accounting, food and beverage, and more.


Recently Maui Preparatory Academy, an independent day and boarding school in West Maui, hosted Entrepreneurship Day, a partnership with the Maui Business Brainstormers. The regular class schedule was thrown out the window in favor of an interactive, guided, day-long business incubator experience.


In the morning, business owners spoke from the heart and from experience about the highs and lows of their journeys. Next, entrepreneurs shared real-world business challenges, and engaged in critical conversations with student input about how to respond creatively.


In the afternoon, students worked in teams to develop business plans, including clear and concise elevator pitches, which they then delivered to a friendly but honest panel of judges. Less intense than Mark Cuban shaking his head in dismay on “Shark Tank,” this was an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to receive feedback from the judging panel. Students were smiling and chatting about the experience after the school day finished. They were impressed by their mentors.


They had been stimulated by their peers. And they were proud of the critical thinking, collaboration, and communication they had been a part of. In a previous iteration of Entrepreneurship Day at the school, one of the students even went on to found his own computer services company.


There are so many incredible things happening in public, private, and charter schools all around the Aloha State. And there are so many interesting ways to connect our students more closely with the mentors, experience, and culture of business. In the end, we all share the same goal: To ensure that the rising generation of Hawaiian students is supported, experienced, and empowered to make their lives and their world better.


Parent Homework:

  • Come up with an idea you can turn into a business. It can be as simple as babysitting, garage sales, or a snack stand Or, it can be as involved as creating an online store.
  • Brainstorm with a handwritten mind map to generate business ideas. How does your child like to spend her time? What does your child like to buy? What opportunities might you see together to provide goods, services, or experiences to others?
  • Get creative by developing a customized font, logo, business name, and unique brand.
  • Practice accounting together. Track expenses and income on a spreadsheet, and model income, expenses, and profit of your new business


Andrew O’Riordan is an admissions director, teacher, coach of the surf team, and preschool parent at Maui Preparatory Academy.