Building Tomorrow’s Leaders: Oklahoma Business Week

By: Sunnie Dawn Baker

In early June, 35 high school students converged onto the East Central University campus to learn about business and entrepreneurship. This was the tenth time that the ECU School of Business hosted Oklahoma Business Week (OBW). It originally began in 2012, predating the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center which houses the business programs. After taking three years off due to Covid restrictions, OBW returned in 2023 to the joy of both students and faculty.

Dr. Stacey Bolin, Associate Professor and Director of the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship, started at ECU in 2011. When Wendell Godwin, then Dean for the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business, asked Bolin to spearhead an initiative to start Oklahoma Business Week, she had not been at ECU for long. Bolin already had experience working with kids as a former youth minister, so, in addition to her academic credentials, Bolin was the perfect choice to take on this project. Washington Business Week also helped by serving as an inspiration through a similar program in Washington state. Additionally, they invited a representative from that program to help during the first year. While they initially modeled the program after the one in Washington, they have since made it uniquely their own.

OBW consists of five days, packed with activities, tours, and challenges. There are two different tracks that students can participate in: the regular OBW experience or the Advanced Leaders Group (ALG). All high school students in Oklahoma who have completed their freshman year are eligible to participate in OBW, and they can continue to join until the summer after their senior year. The ALG track includes students who have previously participated in OBW. This track focuses on leadership, with students helping new attendees and leading some of the activities. This year, six students returned after last year’s program to join the ALG.

While the students have the opportunity to learn about business and entrepreneurship, OBW is also a competition. Organizers divided the students into six teams, and the students competed in different challenges that taught business skills, critical thinking, and teamwork. Each competition contributes to their total score. Four events account for 10% each, while two major events account for 30%. Each member of the winning team receives a $1,000 scholarship to ECU, as well as a laptop, while the members of the runner-up team receive a $500 scholarship and a Rocketbook, which is a cloud-enabled notebook, perfect for taking notes in college.

The four challenges worth 10% include: the Hunk of Junk, Amazing Race, OBW Stock Challenge, and Business Week Regatta. For the Hunk of Junk, the teams look through leftovers from yard sales and use markers and paper to create a business and a commercial using their collective imaginations. Bolin brings in outside judges to choose the winning team. For the Amazing Race, the students must find things around campus. This is a fun alternative to the typical campus tour that many camps utilize. Dr. Michael Scott, Dean of the College of Business, leads the Stock Challenge. The students learn about the stock market and pick stocks while also learning about the need to diversify their holdings. In the final small challenge, the Business Week Regatta, the teams build functional cardboard boats. One team member gets in the boat and races it against the other teams.

The program also features two main challenges, each worth 30% of the total: the BizSim Challenge and the Trade Show. For the BizSim Challenge, the teams run 8 quarters of a product-based business. They must make choices about suppliers, price points, and distribution, among many other things. As they move through this challenge, each choice they make impacts their simulation. There is no right or wrong way to do it; it all depends upon the competition and the market. For the Trade Show, the teams develop a business idea and then produce a science fair-type poster to display in the final trade show, which is open to the public. The team members each take roles in their company and pitch their business to the people in attendance who, then, invest in the different companies with fake money. The team with the most investment wins.

While Oklahoma Business Week exposes students to the world of business and entrepreneurship, it also offers opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to. Bolin notes that this experience allows students to see what college life is like and helps them determine if business is something they might want to consider when they get older. Ashia Todd, the Startup Community Manager at Ada Jobs Foundation, volunteered for the second year in a row as a “Company Advisor,” working closely with a team to help guide and mentor them. For Todd, the most rewarding part is seeing the confidence that develops during the week. Todd says, “It is great getting to see these young people come out of their shells. They are always so shy the first day and by the trade show they are confidently talking to local business leaders to promote their product.” OBW transforms the lives of young people in Oklahoma, allowing them to see what the world of business is all about, while also helping them grow their confidence and leadership skills. For more information, contact Stacey Bolin at and to apply in the future, visit .

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