Jul 28, 2014
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Which Comes First: Graduating High School or Owning a Startup

Monta Vista’s DECA chapter, ranking no. 1 in the world, inspires students to start their own businesses before graduating from high school.

Which Comes First: Graduating High School or Owning a Startup

At Monta Vista High School students don’t just study for their next exams or practice for an upcoming tennis match. They start companies.

Recognized by Newsweek and US News for its outstanding student success, Monta Vista is home to the No. 1 DECA chapter in the world, educating students about business and entrepreneurship.

“DECA reaches out into the real world,” said Michelle Chan, executive vice president of DECA at Monta Vista. “It connects what you learn in the classroom to the real world.”

Members of DECA develop leadership, public speaking and problem-solving skills throughout their four years at Monta Vista. Entering in competitions across the country provides students with the opportunity to enhance their critical thinking skills and increase their comfort with public speaking.

“We prepare people for jobs,” said Roshan Varadarajan, president. “Anything you do, you need to be able to market yourself.”

Carl Schmidt, DECA’s advisor, inspired Varadarajan to pursue business out of the classroom after taking Schmidt’s “Principles of Business” class.

“Schmidt shows how it relates to every aspect of life,” he said.

With more than 600 members in DECA, many members present ideas to venture capitalists and go on to start their own businesses. DECA has great contacts to venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley, said Varadarajan.

DECA is a member of the Chamber of Commerce which provides opportunities for the students to meet business professionals. During the summer venture capitalists offer internships to students, providing the space to develop and innovate.

“A lot of our members have gone on to start their own companies, whether it’s one or three,” said Varadarajan.

Diana Keng, 20, a previous member of Monta Vista’s DECA, started MyWeboo which provides a space for teens to organize their digital lives. The first startup she launched at the age of 15 was a t-shirt screen-printing business.  Later she started a teen marketing-consulting firm.

Sonika Singh, 18, turned her passion into a business. She often decorated sneakers with Sharpies and paint as gifts for friends’ birthdays. After friends recommended that she sell the hand-painted sneakers, she started Rage Shoes and made a profit of $450 during summer vacation in 2010.

Not all members go on to create a company as a teen, but many continue to pursue business after high school.

“I have no idea what I want to major in, but my dream is to create the next Apple or Google,” said Vivek Ragharum, vice president of competitions.

Inspired by Steve Jobs, Varadarajan said he wants to create something that people don’t even know they needed. He said, “I think what kind of legacy can I leave?

Chan said she hopes to major in biology and minor in business.

Even though they get down to business most of the time, members of DECA enjoy the social aspect of the organization as well. Chan said that when she thinks back on her time in high school, she’s not going to think of the classes that she took but rather the conferences she traveled to and the friendships she formed with DECA.

The organization travels to conferences all over the country from Kentucky and Orlando to Irvine. The International Career Development Conference (ICDC) is DECA’s largest competition with competitive qualifications for participants.

At the conference there are entrepreneurship and case study competitions. For entrepreneurship students have to come up with a business idea and present it to a judge, and for case studies participants play different roles in various industries where they have to solve a problem.

For example, when Chan role-played in the sports and entertainment sector, she was given a case study in which she was the sports team manager and had to increase sales. With only 30 minutes to prepare an idea, Chan proposed the business plan to a judge.

DECA, previously known as Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an international organization that educates high school and college students in finance, marketing and business. Different from many other clubs on campus, DECA is a Career and Technology Student Organization.

For more information, visit Monta Vista’s DECA chapter website

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