Entrepreneurial Spirit

By STEVE MAROWSKIArgus-Press Staff Writer

Three Saginaw Valley State University students – two from Laingsburg and one from Chesaning – recently qualified to attend the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference from April 13-16 in Orlando.

Maggie Walker, an accounting major from Laingsburg, won first place statewide for her entrepreneurial ambitions. She started a retailing business as a junior at SVSU.

Jacob Saint Amour, a supply chain management major from Laingsburg, and Madisyn Nicol, a management and marketing double major from Chesaning, also qualified with a strong showing at the astate contest in Dearborn Feb. 1-3.

“I had a lot of friends in DECA and that’s what initially got me interested in joining,” Walker said. “After I attended my first conference my freshman year of high school, I was kind of hooked after and have competed ever since.”

DECA Inc, formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, is a not-for-profit career and technical student organization with more than 215,000 members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, China, Germany, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain. DECA is organized into two divisions. The High School Division includes 200,000 members in 3,500 schools. The Collegiate Division includes over 15,000 members in 275 colleges and universities.

In Walker’s six years in the program, the international conference in April will be her fourth international conference, but she was surprised to get first place this year.

“I’ve placed to go to internationals three times, but this is my first time placing in the top three at the state level,” Walker said. “It was definitely crazy to hear that I won first place, especially because I was competing with my personal business.

Through bargain hunting and thrifting, Walker finds clothes and sells them online. However, she is hoping to open a mobile boutique she can take to career fairs throughout Michigan. She believes she was given the top prize because there is a need for companies like hers.

“I will be providing low-cost, new and gently used professional clothing for students and job seekers,” Walker said. “It’s hard to afford nice, high-quality clothing at retail prices.”

Like Walker, Saint Amour heard about DECA through friends who went to the international competition. Saint Amour didn’t join DECA until his sophomore year in high school, and when he got to Saginaw Valley, he said the DECA chapter at the college fizzled out.

“Halfway through our second semester of freshman year, Maggie and I got an email from Amy Hendrickson,” Saint Amour said. “She wanted to learn about DECA and bring it back, and she sent Maggie and I to Anaheim in spring 2017 to learn what a college international competition looked like.”

While they didn’t place in Anaheim, it was a good learning experience for the duo. This year, Saint Amour received a medal in the retail management competition and third-place in business ethics with his partner, Keegan Booms.

In the retail competition, Saint Amour had to think about a credit card problem a smaller business might face and present a solution to the problem. For business ethics, Saint Amour and Booms had to inform employees about what was going on in their company and to make a decision about whether to inform the public.

Saint Amour is looking forward to representing Saginaw Valley on a national level.

“I personally don’t get the highest of grades, but I get to show my skills next to some of the biggest and best colleges in the nation,” Saint Amour said. “The only way to prepare is to look at old examples of the questions judges used to ask. Other than that, it’s a lot of quick thinking on our part.”

Nicol didn’t know about DECA until she went to Delta College in 2015. After joining the team at Delta, she competed at the state conference and placed second in the entrepreneurship event. Now, Nicol is fully immersed in competitions.

“Being a part of DECA makes me feel as if I’m really doing something in the business realm,” Nicol said. “As just a student, you don’t really experience any hands-on business events like the competitions for DECA. I recommend joining DECA to anyone interested in any field of business.”

At the state competition, Nicol competed in the advertising campaign event and the sales management meeting. In her sales management meeting, she was given a scenario for what a sales manager would have to do daily and only 30 minutes to prepare.

For her advertising campaign, Nicol prepared a campaign she had been working on previously.

“I worked under the dean for the college of education at Saginaw Valley and helped prepare an advertising campaign,” Nicol said. “I used that same campaign and presented it to a judge within 20 minutes.”

Nicol is looking forward to going to Orlando for the international competition. She previously had an internship at Walt Disney World and has been preparing for the competition by working with campus organizations.

“I’ve been working with Cardinal Solutions, a student-based group to help get students hands-on experience in their field,” Nicol said. “I’ve been preparing for the international competition since I joined DECA at SVSU. I knew my team would make it because we’re all extremely talented.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.