Entrepreneurship & Business at Kent

Scarlett Chu, Reporter

Starting a business in high school is a daunting prospect that might seem like a thing best put off until our adult years. However, with Kent’s business program and faculty guidance, students have found that pursuing a dream of becoming a business owner or leading one’s own nonprofit organization is indeed an achievable goal. 

Aside from credit courses throughout the academic day, Kent provides many resources such as national competitions and personal guidance to those interested in business, finance, and entrepreneurship. These opportunities, instead of focusing on a specific set of skills, emphasize teaching students to “look at the world and be able to make an impact,” as Mrs. Saxton, the Kepner Teaching Chair in Entrepreneurship, explains. 

Mrs. Saxton has her own experience running a business during her student years: she ran a consulting firm that helped small businesses with website and social strategies. Even when she became a full-time teacher, she still wanted to help students who have the “passion and guts” to become an entrepreneur. “We want to prime you to become an innovator,” said Mrs. Saxton, “we want you to have the tools, the knowledge, and the support to launch your own businesses when you’re here [in Kent] and also after you graduate.” 

Julia Park ‘21, the founder of her club sector of GirlUp, is a great example of running a successful startup at Kent. GirlUp is a global foundation that empowers girls in third-world countries to support and discover themselves through unique leadership programs. Park has organized multiple week-long fundraisers during her years working with GirlUp, selling snacks, Bath & Body Works products, and dress-down stickers. Utilizing what she has learned about marketing and launching an initiative from Kent, Park continues to raise awareness for GirlUp’s cause through self-organized events here on our campus. 

Kent School also offers students a series of national competitions in which to hone their entrepreneurial and investment skills. The Wharton Global High School Investment Competition is a ten-week investment simulation game where students develop both a short- and long-term investment strategy for a given client profile. Saxton acts as an advisor for the competing teams and guides them throughout the process. What is unique about the Wharton Investment Competition is that winners are not selected by the monetary growth of their client, but by the strength and articulation of their strategies. “It all comes back to mindset,” says Mrs. Saxton, “it’s not really about who wins this contest—it’s about thinking of the world as a business person and being ready for any ‘a-ha’ moment you have, whether it’s launching a business or investing in a company.” 

Kent students also participate in the national fantasy online stock contest offered by Portfolios With Purpose. This competition allows the winners to donate a large sum of money, collected from the contestants’ donations, to a charity of their choices. Last year, Aaron Guan ’23 was the proud winner of the 2019 Portfolios With Purpose Contest. He has always been very interested in stocks and investment, and seeing how Mrs. Saxton was “really hyping it [the contest] up,” he decided to participate. Guan was able to “catch the coronavirus train” early on and emerge as the winner. Even though he hasn’t received the prize money yet, he plans on donating the sum to Kent School to aid them during this pandemic. Mrs. Saxton highly praised Guan’s performance and said it was a “huge celebration for Kent.”

Another highlight of the program is Kent’s Bloomberg Terminal in the John Gray Park ’28 Library. Since its installment in 2015, has been loved by Kent students. The terminal offers access to a database that provides everything about public trading companies: financial data on stock market indices and equities for domestic and international markets. Kent School is the first high school in Connecticut to provide this resource, and our terminal allows Kent students to become Bloomberg Certified after completing a 12-hour self-paced online course called the Bloomberg Market Concepts. 

The school also organizes a guest lecture series, in which esteemed alumni are invited to host talks for Kent students. Speakers such as Frankie Celenza ’05, an Emmy-nominated TV chef, and Erin Reilly and Sterling Wilson, Pop! Promo founders and 2018’s Supplier Entrepreneurs Of The Year, have addressed students on campus about their businesses and their stories of starting small and growing big. 

Through its Business and Entrepreneurship offerings, the School helps students draw out a path for their ideas and bring them to light. Be it participating in competitions or simply wanting to learn more about finance, there is something among Kent’s business program for everyone.