Written by Robert Caffey, 11th grader at eStem Public Charter School
Over the past year in the Noble Impact class, I have had limitless business opportunities to participate in. These have ranged from hosting an event for a local business, taking a trip to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and even tours of local businesses like Stone Ward. Emily Reeves gave us a tour of Stone Ward back in January of this year and I was amazed at the workplace and how they operated. You could sense that their tagline of “Building Good” was believed throughout the building.
Weeks later, six Noble Impact scholars competed in their first Startup Weekend in Northwest Arkansas and kicked off their project called PassionPull. They had such a fun time over the weekend and they made me jealous that I couldn’t attend. I really wanted to see this type of event in person.
When we found out about the possibility to launch the first ever High School Startup Weekend, I was thrilled to finally be a part of the Startup Community. This event would allow high school students to explore their entrepreneurial side and create something new and innovative. We were to interview successful, brilliant, and skillful entrepreneurs in order to prepare for this experience.
I chose to interview Mrs. Millie Ward, one of the two founders of Stone Ward. The email chain went in this way:
I am Robert Caffey, a student in the Noble Impact class at eStem High School. Thank you for giving us a tour of Stone Ward before the holidays. I was amazed at the working environment in your offices.
Noble Impact is hosting the first ever High School Startup Weekend. We hope that this event will inspire high school students to build upon their entrepreneurial side.
We are interviewing successful entrepreneurs about how they achieved such a successful stature. Is there anyway that I can schedule an interview with you within the next couple of weeks?
Thank you for your time,
Robert, I am happy to meet with you. I know High School Startup Weekend is going to be a great experience. This week I have time Tuesday morning anytime between 9:00 and noon. And on Wednesday I have between 11:30 and 1:30. Does any of this work for you?
Thanks so much for getting back to me on this. Does 12:00 on Wednesday at Stone Ward work for you?
Robert, That works for me. Will you be coming to our offices? I am copying my executive assistant, Brenda Fowler, so that she can reserve us a meeting room and get this on my calendar. Look forward to meeting you.
I arrived at 11:55 a.m. at Stone Ward with my notebook and pencil, ready to record what she said. During the interview, I asked her three main questions:
1) How did you launch Stone Ward?
2) Where do you stand on teaching entrepreneurship in high school?
3) How do you feel about Startup Weekend?
Mrs. Ward had great responses to each of these questions and what I wrote about her answers goes along these lines:
Question #1 – How did you launch Stone Ward?
Mrs. Ward was 28 when she met Creative Director Larry Stone, one of the three partners for Combs, Resnic, Stone. Mr. Combs and Mr. Resnic were at odds with each other and, being the other two founders, they split the company. Larry Stone went with Mr. Resnic to form Resnic Stone. Mrs. Ward worked with them for one year and due to her devotion to her job, she became the third partner in the company, changing the business’s name to Resnic, Stone, Ward. Seven years went by and Mr. Resnic had some other ideas for the company in another state. Mr. Stone and Mrs. Ward decided to forge a new path and the company became what is known today as StoneWard.
Question #2 – Where do you stand on teaching entrepreneurship in high school?
Mrs. Ward had not received any educational help as an entrepreneur until college. She had taken part in some extracurricular activities that had been beneficial for her, but high school had no classes that really taught her something about entrepreneurship. She felt that the only entrepreneurial help she received during high school was from her parents or outside of class. She said that high school could do more to prepare students for the real world, but college has done a much better job so far with extended options to pursue.
Question #3 – How do you feel about Startup Weekend?
Mrs. Ward holds Startup Weekend in such high regard that she feels it is a “living lab” for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. She was very supportive about our High School Startup Weekend when we brought it up in conversation and Stone Ward is actually a sponsor.
Now, after I had asked my questions and written down her responses, Mrs. Ward surprised me by asking about myself. I was thrown off guard by such a simple question that I hadn’t thought would come up. This was quite interesting at the time, but now I know that she wanted to gain a little more knowledge about who I was that she may not find on Facebook or Twitter.
Remember this, when you leave, always say thank you, shake their hand, and be polite. The knowledge I have gained from doing this interview will stay with me for a long time. I will not let go of such sage advice.
For those of you interested, Startup Weekend is an amazing place to build up your teamwork and entrepreneurial skills. I hope to see you on April 4-6 at the Clinton School of Public Service.