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What is DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), and why did you start this club?

Evan France ’24: DECA is an organization that focuses on spreading education about business, marketing, and investment in those types of areas and it was something that I was really interested in starting at PD. We started the social entrepreneurship class from Dr. Edge. It is something that I wanted to start to follow. It was me and a couple of other guys, Calvin, and we went to Dr. Edge and he helped walk us through it and with all the logistics of starting the club at PD. And then, we kind of started from there. It's a club educating students more about entrepreneurship.

A lot of it is working with Dr. Edge. What I appreciate about Dr. Edge is that he lets us learn and then, if he sees we need help, he will step in and help us figure out a problem. This club has been a great experience for me because it has given me a chance to practice skills of reaching out to people. Not only have I learned about social entrepreneurship skills but networking as well.

How do the club meetings work?

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Evan: The club meetings vary a lot. We have had club meetings that are national competitions for DECA, but there are also guest speakers. Last semester, we had Gary Scott (Vice President, The Floyd McMillan Scott Group) and Aaron Zucker (CEO, Zucker Investment Group) come in to speak with students. Next month, we will have Ms. (Kathryn) Karakus, who is the Senior Director, Basketball Operations at the Charlotte Hornets. And then, we have Scott Zimmer (formerly on the Board of Directors for the Capital One Foundation). We have a lot of exciting stuff coming our way. We also like to practice for the Hackathon. We have some stuff planned for the future but waiting to announce in a couple of weeks.

Are you mostly talking to students about running a business?

Evan: It's mostly about learning logistics behind businesses and the struggles people encounter when running a business. It's mostly about educating for the future as they are going to college so that they have underlying knowledge, and learning from professionals about investing, and how they can go about pursuing that profession. We have 33 people in DECA.

Any inspiring guest speakers?

Evan: I don't think I can point out one person. I feel that they are all great at helping students. I think Gary Scott is someone who has inspired me. We worked together on the Warren Buffett competition so him helping me was really great and getting his feedback. Getting him to speak was pretty awesome, to hear about his story and listen to how he got to where he is today. I think Gary Scott was someone I was interested in.

I went to the Warren Buffet competition so I created a portfolio for the “client” and you learn how to do a pitch. Mr. Li helped us a bunch and Gary Scott, too. Just networking within the PD community helped us pursue that competition. 

What is something important that you have learned running DECA?

Evan: How important networking is and having connections. How you are able to create those connections and maintain those connections especially going into college and before college, so after college, you can reach out to those people. It’s one of the biggest things that helps students. 

Calvin Kraus ’24: A lot of these guest speakers are a great networking opportunity because they will come and say, “If you have any questions or want to reach out…” They encourage students to follow up. A lot of them had mentioned internships when they came to talk to us. For instance, Aaron Zucker talked about internships. Even when we went on the LEAD Technologies trip to see Moe Daher’s (co-founder, LEAD Technologies, Inc.) company, it wasn’t necessarily a DECA endorsed trip, but they said, “Hey, if you guys are interested in computer science, we are doing internships for high schoolers.” So, it’s those kind of connections. You can listen to them talk and then it is important to go up afterwards and form that connection. 

What is something that you were not expecting running DECA?

Evan: I think the most challenging thing is honestly the small logistics of it. Email lists, sending emails, a bunch of small things that do not occupy a lot of time individually, but if you put them together they take up a lot of time. Obviously that is not what you want to be doing, but that is the process that you have to go through in order to manage the club. Those underlying logistics of organizing the club are definitely the hardest.

Calvin: I think DECA as a club has so much to offer from a national perspective. It has so many opportunities for students to get involved in, and things that students can grow from. Competitions and everything can be a lot in planning and organizing 70 kids. 

Evan: Especially a lot of these Charlotte schools have run DECA for tons of years so we are trying to catch up to them and everything, which can be tough.

Calvin: Yeah, there are some schools with classes on DECA.. 

Do you connect with other chapters around Charlotte?

Evan: That is kind of the future plan. First, we need to get our footing in PD and then we will start reaching out to Myers Park, etc. 

Calvin: Not even just a Charlotte-based perspective. When we are going out to competitions, when we are going out to conferences, we are meeting new people there. If you want to talk about networking, a great way to network is by going to these things. Those are the kind of opportunities that we have for students. 

Evan: Yeah, you are meeting so many other high school students who are interested in social entrepreneurship, so after college if they have a start up, if you have a good connection, have their email, you can join their start up. There are so many opportunities at these competitions for networking.

Tell me about the competitions and conferences you have attended. What have they been like for the club?

Evan: We have only done one which is not many but we just started this club last year. We did actually pretty well since we had no prep and it was our first competition because of the foundation that PD has given us with Social Entrepreneurship. Competitions are something we are going to look into doing next year. 

Calvin: The trouble of running the club is that there are a ton of layers. We had no clue and started Googling and (watching) YouTube videos, and what we learned was that we did the presentation competition, but we did not do a written test. 

Evan: We had to average out to mid 100s and we got 90s in our first part. All we need is to do the written test to qualify for nationals. 

Calvin: Which we didn't know until we were there.

Evan: Essentially you are role playing as a business manager and you act as a consultant to a client. It's mostly problem solving which is great. You have a one-on-one against judges. 

Calvin: People did really well with it. 

Evan: I am looking forward to the future to do more of it. This one was in the Myers Park area in October. We got 90 points out of hundred on our first competition, which was great! And we are hoping to go to national competitions. 

What has been the overall effect of your club on PD?

Evan: I think it's kind of just raising the awareness of entrepreneurship and knowledge level of students. That is portrayed through Hackathons and events at PD. So just joining the movement to expand social entrepreneurship in general, it's kind of helped to push that further. 

What is the biggest takeaway that you have learned?

Evan: Small things really matter. Emails, letters…even if it seems insignificant, it's really important to write because they do matter to make connections and form relationships with people in your network. 

Calvin: Learning to be in a learning position and being able to navigate everything and manage kids. 

Evan: This can be a lot of work in managing time. 

How do you balance everything?

Evan: I would say setting aside a time with everything, and doing as much as you can in an hour period because you can’t get stuck on something for too long. I mean I have had times where I have done something, and then it branched off, and then I have gone into a rabbit hole and it's taken four hours. So time blocking stuff, and setting aside time is really important. It's the most effective strategy in my eyes. 

Calvin: Yeah, using school time. Being able to talk to people face-to-face is super important to talk through ideas. 

Evan: Yeah, I think that discussing ideas is the best thing during meetings. Because we are able to discuss more and then work on logistics at home. 

Calvin: Yeah, and then we start doing the stuff. We actually know what we are doing. 

What is one piece of advice for other PD students who are interested in social entrepreneurship?

Evan: The biggest thing is going for it. It is a trial and error kind of feeling. The more mistakes you make, the more you have to learn for next time. 

Calvin: Yeah, it's important to try in the first place. 

Where do you see DECA going in the future?

Calvin: One thing that we are hoping for is bringing the club to Middle School. Kids start coming in through Middle School and then once they get to Upper School, it'll be great cause they'll already have a foundation. 

Evan: Yeah, because sometimes with freshmen it can be difficult to have them come in, and then have to teach them everything new for the year. Doing what we are currently doing, but also expanding what we are doing and making things more frequent, and organizing just because we are new, and have not been doing this for very long.