COSTA MESA — After sweeping the competition statewide, Costa Mesa High School's Business Academy will compete in New York City in March for a national title.
Mesa's two Virtual Enterprise companies, the Great Park Wildlife Center and Abeille, finished first and second, respectively, at the California State Business and Trade Fair earlier this month in Bakersfield — the first school to ever take both awards in the same year.
"It was a very emotional moment. It was probably the first time I cried of happiness," said Cesar Chavez, 17, who served as the Great Park Wildlife Center chief executive in the competition. "I just couldn't believe that it actually happened."
Virtual Enterprise is a senior-level class that allows students to wet their feet in the world of business by creating and running a mock company.
At Mesa, it is the culmination of a three-class pathway, although students who haven't taken the other classes can still join.
The Great Park Wildlife Center, a petting zoo in Irvine's Great Park, uses only second-chance rescue animals and incorporates an educational component for local schoolchildren, Cesar said.
Abeille, which is French for bee, is an organic and humane beekeeping and pollination service company that lends out bees to farms in need and sells honey and wax wholesale, said its chief executive, Raquel Friedmann, 17.
Social responsibility has been a theme.
Advisor Mike Sciacca said he doesn't have a formula for making successful companies, but figured out that it's important to teach kids that business is more than making money.
"I think that's the whole reason we have buy in," he said about why students take the class so seriously. "It feels less like work and more like a passion."
The students also had big shoes to fill.
One of Mesa's student companies nabbed first place at nationals last year with Sanatorius, a pollution-offset company that installs compost toilets in developing countries.
The goal this year was for both teams to make it to nationals, and now they have to tweak their business plans and raise the money to go.
"It's going to be really exciting and really amazing," Raquel said. "I think it's just going to be exciting to share our ideas."
How To Help
A portion of the proceeds from Costa Mesa High School's Food Truck Nights, from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Jan. 3 and 10, will help the business teams raise the $16,500 to $22,000 it needs to send 11 teammates to New York City. The food trucks meet the first and third Tuesdays of the month in front of the gym, 2650 Fairview Road.