Junior Peyton Symonds says the standard plastic classroom chairs found in most schools are not the best for learning. He wants to solve that problem. Working with two other partners, he is designing a business plan to provide more comfortable and cost effective classroom chairs.

“We are trying to come up with an innovative, possibly cheaper option. I was thinking of a thin rubber material with holes in the seat for aeration. However, it would have to be tough rubber to accommodate a lot of weight,” said Peyton.

Peyton and his partners are pitching their idea at University of Texas at Arlington’s Student Innovation Competition. He discovered his interest in being an entrepreneur through the Youth Entrepreneurs (YE) program at Premier High School of Lewisville.

“We have to draw up a plan detailing what the product is, who we are giving the product to, why they want the product, the budget we need to make it, marketing, how we are going to distribute it and the profit, of course,” said Peyton.

Helping students realize the importance of creating value for others is one of the key goals of YE says Grant Mankin, YE’s Dallas-Fort Worth Area Director.

“Peyton is a fantastic example of how Youth Entrepreneurs challenges the way students think about the world around them.  The YE curriculum gives students a chance to think about value creation in a way they have not thought about it before.  Peyton saw an opportunity to make the lives of student’s  better by designing a new chair, and as he progresses through life his product or service may change, but his way of thinking about value creation will not, and that is what we hope for in all of our students,” said Mr. Mankin.

Taking part in the YE program has also given Peyton the motivation he needed to think about his future and take his schoolwork seriously.

“YE helps with a lot of things. It has put my mind in a whole new state. I realized that I have to get things done, that not everything in the world is free and that it never will be. You have to actively do something to get to the point where you can get, not just the things that you need, but also things that you want,” said Peyton.

When Peyton first came to Premier High School of Lewisville last year he was a year behind on credits.

“In 10th grade I was doing online school, and I fell behind quite a bit. So the following year, I decided I should go somewhere with somebody to look over my shoulder to make sure I am actually doing my work. This place is perfect for that,” said Peyton.

When he heard YE was a program that focused on equipping students with the tools and knowledge they need to be entrepreneurs, he volunteered to be part of his school’s inaugural class.

My whole family has been the entrepreneur type. I wanted to be able to go out and do my own thing in the world, to create the life I want. I thought the class would be good for me. The teacher, Ms. Jones, is really nice and helpful, the activities we do and the events we go to help a lot. I feel like I have learned a lot,” said Peyton.

From studying basic economics and the fundamental values of an entrepreneur to pricing out a product and developing a marketing plan, students gain real experience applying what they learn in class.  Peyton particularly liked the business plan format YE provides because it allows him to organize everything all on one piece of paper.

In addition to classwork, Peyton has volunteered to participate in outside programs his teacher has recommended. He found the Pitch It competitions particularly helpful as they allow him to develop his public speaking skills. Each participant receives the prompt in advance and then they give a two minute speech to judges from different backgrounds.

“I’ve always been a pretty bad public speaker, but it has always been something I’ve wanted to do because when I am sitting at home I think of these amazing speeches in my head. I know somebody has got to hear it, but I’ve never been able to actually get up in front of other people. This has really helped me,” said Peyton.

Besides improving his public speaking skills, Peyton has learned the most important principle of an entrepreneur.

“The most important thing is finding out what it is that people have problems with. You have to ask: what are the pains out there in society that you can fix?” said Peyton.

Peyton found one in his own school to fix. Last year he realized his school did not have any food on the campus. Students are also not allowed to leave for lunch or order it in. Already familiar with vending machines because his father owns one at his work, Peyton asked if he could bring in a vending machine.

Receiving approval from the school, Peyton made an initial $2,000 investment for the vending machine and $300 to fill it. By keeping an eye on how quickly each product sells out, he has learned to adjust his prices to reflect the demand.

The motivation Peyton has discovered through YE has carried over to his classwork and his work ethic. Not only did he get a job recently, but he is also determined to graduate on time by finishing his remaining six and a half credits before the end of the school year.

Campus director Lisa Ehrke believes the YE program has provided many of her students with a needed motivation.

“I have seen Peyton blossom since he started the program. He has always been a brilliant young man, but rather quiet and unmotivated. It has brought him out of his shell. It has provided him and other students opportunities they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. Our students are very creative kiddos who don’t fit in a box, which is part of the reason they are here. But, that is exactly what an entrepreneur is. YE is bringing out a side of them we haven’t seen,” said Ms. Ehrke.

After he graduates, Peyton hopes to study music production in college.

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