Propel Charter School Highlights Students’ Entrepreneurial Talent

Proper Charter School students are surely making a difference as they enhance their entrepreneurial skills via developing business plans. Propel Schools – a not-for-profit, federation of public charter schools – is based in Pittsburgh, PA, and strives to transform public education so that high-performance public schools are accessible to all children. Maura DeRiggi, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator at Propel Schools, explained that the entrepreneurial project was proposed in 2013 by a Propel Schools Foundation Board member. The purpose of the project is to utilize the business talent within the Pittsburgh community.

“Board member Josh Cotherman (Cotherman Group, LLC) led this charge to inspire, challenge and empower Propel Schools’ middle and high school students. Through Josh’s own experience with entrepreneurial endeavors and previous work with Propel students, he wanted to give more students the opportunity to work through their own ideas, realize their passions and gain valuable presentation skills,” DeRiggi said. She believes that though the business plan winner will receive start-up funding of $1,000, the real prize is the “challenge, process and ability to bring an idea to life through research, collaboration, and sweat equity.”

While some students are working on existing businesses, most are establishing start-up companies. “From car detailing to fashion planning, from social media services to social justice advocacy, Propel Schools students are preparing for tomorrow, by learning about today’s  real-world business issues and strategies. Students have been honing their projects for the past few months.  Some of Pittsburgh’s leading business people work with students regarding feasibility, marketing, presenting and actually writing a business plan in SBA (Small Business Administration) format.  Students also gain advice and support from teachers at the respective schools,” DeRiggi explained.

Students are not only gaining entrepreneurship abilities from this project, but they are also increasing their knowledge in other areas. DeRiggi explains that students are experiencing a multi-disciplinary approach to business by also enhancing their non-fiction literacy. “By reading works that are business-technical, they gain both practical knowledge and confidence in their ability to apply a different type of reading to a ‘real-world’ project,” she said.

Propel Schools Board member Josh Cotherman shares his thoughts regarding the competition’s impact on students and the ripple effect it has in the classroom. “In my opinion, the skills most critical to success in every vocation are creating and communicating value.  Entrepreneurial exercises, like Propel’s Student Business Plan Competition, encourage students to assess their environment for opportunities to create value, and then communicate the perceived value in the form of a business plan,” he said, “Mastering the process of translating a concept from the mind to an executable framework is a powerful tool; a business plan is a road map that leads inspiration into reality, producing a vast array of educational dividends both inside and outside the classroom.”

Cotherman added, “With the oncoming wave of international intellectual competition, it’s critical that the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs of tomorrow are equipped with the capacity to both create and communicate value.  Entrepreneurial thinking encapsulates both of these concepts, fostering life lesion that can immediately translate into productive changes of behavior.”

Teams will pitch their projects to a panel of judges for the opportunity to win $1,000 and make their dreams a reality. The final judging and awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 10 at Propel Braddock Hills High School.  Best wishes to the Proper Charter School students!


On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Propel’s inaugural Student Business Plan Competition came to a close, as the winning team was announced and awarded a $1,000 prize to bring their business concept to fruition.

On May 21, 2013, Propel’s inaugural Student Business Plan Competition came to a close, as the winning team was announced and awarded a $1,000 prize to bring their business concept to fruition.


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