By Rick Mauch
Brian Duncan, the entrepreneurship instructor at Duncanville High School, has found a way to make doing homework enjoyable. After all, everyone likes making money, right?
Using an assignment he got in college as inspiration, he challenged his students to do the same as he did - only to take things even further.
"In graduate school, I received an assignment to research a company and write about its successes and failures. Google was the company I chose, which was starting to separate itself from the other web browsers at that time in popularity by being more user-friendly," Duncan recalled. "I learned that Google started as a homework assignment. Then I asked Jamie Escalante's question, 'Why can't my students do this?'
"I started challenging my students to take their homework projects and create actual businesses. The biggest challenge was getting my students not to be afraid of being successful and the possibility of owning their businesses. As far as their success, I'm so proud of them. It takes a lot of faith and courage to start a business. I can't wait to see what many of them will become one day."
His junior/senior-level class sizes range between 25-35-plus students. The entrepreneurship/business pathway program is part of the career and technical education program. Students can actually earn industry-based certification programs.
The entrepreneurship class is entry-level, so students learn the basics of entrepreneurship. Duncan adds realistic scenarios to challenge critical thinking and challenge them with team-building tasks so his future entrepreneurs know how to work together. He also brings in guest speakers.
Last year was the first year of the program's vendor fair at the Dallas Farmers Market, and every student who attended sold out. Since then, two of the attendees' businesses are now selling nationwide, and one is now in Mexico.
"I want to thank Project Still I Rise and the Dallas Farmers Market for partnering with me and helping me with the vendor fair," Duncan said.
Duncan said with a smile that he wasn't the only one excited about his students' success.
"You should have seen their faces when they learned about the IRS finding out about them too. Now they have to pay taxes," he said.
One student in the program has earned over $15,000. Aiden Cortes founded Sugary Nation, which Cortes said makes people "feel rewarded as well as happy" through scrumptious goodies. They offer items such as churro cheesecake, chocolaty strawberries, and even "spicylicious" candy that is chili coated.
"Since we started planning the business on Jan. 17, 2022, selling our first product on April 10, 2022, we’ve grown from being a DFW business to being a nationwide business," Cortes said. "I'm doing something I love, and that's making people happy!
"Joining entrepreneurship has been one of the best choices I've made in my life because it opened the business world to me. Creating my business Sugary Nation has made a different route in my life, and I'm planning to continue to be an entrepreneur and expand my business while giving back to the world!
"If there is anyone who has the dream of creating their own business, 100 percent go for it. It will be very difficult at the start but no matter what gets in the way, keep going because being a business owner is truly amazing."
Ironically, Cortes didn't originally want to be in the class. At the time, he wanted to focus solely on acting.
"He took a chance, completed the assignment, and operated as a vendor, and people loved his product," Duncan said. "He's a natural salesman and will do very well with his likable and approachable personality."
Cortes is now selling in Mexico as well.
Another very successful business was started by Fre Dior. Her company, FreCo, is a unisex clothing brand that allows people to be comfortable, stylish, and confident.
"This entrepreneurship class has helped me push my business out there. I believe if I wasn’t in this class I probably wouldn’t have started my business so soon," Dior said. "This class helped me realize why I wanted to become an entrepreneur.
"My favorite part of this class is getting the right help and tips to start and have a successful business. Being able to have that help is a blessing because I know many people don’t always get opportunities like this."
Dior said she plans to own multiple businesses in the future.
Some successes of Duncan's former students include trucking, lawn care, and one is even an inventor.
"I'm looking forward to seeing his product hit the market," Duncan said. "It will be a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19.
"One day, a former student saw me in the school's parking lot and ran me down in the school parking lot one afternoon to thank me for the business plan project. He told me that his entire family took his homework assignments and started their successful businesses off that assignment. His dad and mom started a Mexican restaurant, and his sister started a beauty salon.
"Teachers don't often see what happens to their students once they graduate, so this was a 'wow' moment for me."
Duncan said the goal of the program is to proliferate the message of entrepreneurship to students and parents and the possibilities of being business owners. He said small business is truly the backbone of this country and essential to creating new jobs.
"Right now, someone is praying for the jobs that they will make. And who knows, maybe one day, I can say that a company as big as Google started right here in this classroom, and I was privileged to see its genesis, its creation," he said. 'One of my favorite quotes regarding business is, 'All things are possible with God.'
"It's crazy to me to think that helping students start actual businesses started as a vision inspired by a homework assignment. With God, it came true."