Casco Bay class challenges students to turn passion into business

Submitted by Portland Public Schools.

PORTLAND — Margo Arruda, a senior at Casco Bay High School, fell in love with the Harry Potter and “Lord of the Rings” books as a young child. “From the time I was 10,” she says, “I could navigate Middle Earth better than my hometown.”

Margo turned that interest into a business idea when she took a Casco Bay course on entrepreneurship offered for the first time this fall. Her business proposal calls for creating t-shirts inspired by the two fantasy series that are “inside jokes that only really big fans would get,” Margo said.

Green t-shirt related to the Lord of the Rings series.One t-shirt advertises S.P.E.W., the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.  Another features the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton.  Margo won a class competition for the best overall entrepreneurial understanding and skills.

Two other students, Ben Alcorn and Oliver Holden, developed the idea for Bogus Boards, a graphic design skateboard company, and made a promotional video. A panel of judges that included two successful entrepreneurs, a corporate lawyer and Casco Bay High School principal Derek Pierce recognized them for the best presentation and most promising business idea.

Students said the class taught them useful skills such as budgeting and marketing.

“Entrepreneurial skills can be applied to many different situations,” says Margo. She adds that even “a grunt in the workplace” can benefit by learning how to communicate with the boss.

Pat Pinto designed and taught the entrepreneurship class. She has worked as a corporate executive, nonprofit executive manager and business owner in several industries, building successful start-ups, orchestrating numerous business partnerships and launching a variety of products and services.  She also has taught marketing at the college level.

Pinto used a curriculum developed by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and customized it for the Casco Bay class. Students learned to think like entrepreneurs, to create and evaluate business ideas and to master skills such as doing market research and developing marketing plans and business strategies.

Margo named her business Goof Ball Designs, with the tagline, “For unleashing your inner dork.”  Her business plan calls for advertising and selling the t-shirts via Facebook and using the profits to help pay her way through college.

“There are hundreds of Harry Potter (Facebook) fan pages and people are on them literally obsessively,” said Margo.  But she said only a couple of companies sell t-shirts, and hers are quite different from those on the market.

Margo’s biggest concern was whether she could be violating intellectual property rights. She researched the topic extensively and spoke to intellectual property lawyers. She learned that J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series, has only filed a handful of lawsuits, all against people who published books related to her series.

Margo said she’s interested in pursuing her business idea if she can raise the cash to get started. Her long-term goal is to earn a doctorate in 20th century epic fantasy literature or the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Ring” series.

The bottom of a skateboard with an orange-tinted image of a boy.Oliver and Ben also are Casco Bay seniors. Their business plan calls for buying the supplies to make 10 cruiser skateboards, selling them and making enough profit to double production.  Their designs for the boards are meant to appeal to males ages 13 through 25.

Oliver has taken courses in commercial art and multi-media at Portland Arts and Technology High School while at Casco Bay High School. He plans to attend an art college next year. Ben plans to study creative writing and environmental science in college.

Ben said the entrepreneurship course taught him that “the most important objective in a business is to define the target market, and alter your product to appeal to them.”

This story is also posted on the Portland Public Schools website. Thank you to Portland Public Schools for this submission.

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