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‘Virtual Enterprise Program’ Sends Young Entrepreneurs to New York City

It’s anything but your ordinary class when they meet at 7:30 a.m. five days a week in their office in room 818 at 42200 Nighthawk Way in Murrieta.

The 27 students in Murrieta Valley High School teacher Joel Levin’s Virtual Enterprise program dress to the nines. They emit success. They’ve got a business to sell and have done their homework, literally.

Made up of juniors, seniors and the occasional talented sophomore, the students studied the market before they set out to create a viable business plan. First things first, they had to appoint a CEO and other key department heads. Then came incorporation, insurance, cash flow and yes, payroll.

With their solid plan in hand they hit the road, competing regionally and on the statewide level against Virtual Enterprise teams from across California. They took second in the state competition, qualifying them to compete April 1-3 at Virtual Enterprise International’s Youth Business Summit in New York City.

Aside from the glamour of traveling to the Big Apple, something deeper is taking place. They are learning valuable, real world skills that any employer would appreciate.

Murrieta resident Anne Bowman, whose daughter, Lauren Bowman, 16, is vice president of marketing for this year’s business, West Coast Races, would agree.

“I have seen her confidence level and her abilities grow, and think that when it is time or her to transition into the business world, she is going to be take what she learned here and put it to use,” Bowman said. “So it is education you can really use.”

The students are well equipped to branch out as entrepreneurs. But many have their sights set on college first; where business or marketing will likely be among the classes they take.

Levin, who also teaches ICT/Careers and Sports and Entertainment Marketing at Murrieta Valley, is in his sixth year of leading the program—long enough to see former participants go on to land real positions in the field.

“Our first CEO, Brett Rasmussen, went to USC for business management and he is now working for a sports marketing firm,” Levin said.

This year’s CEO, Tanner Force, received a half scholarship to study business this summer at Mercy College in New York.

The program attracts the go-getters on campus. In order get into Virtual Enterprise at Murrieta Valley, student must first go through an extensive interview process.

“The popularity is growing,” Levin said. “Next year, I may have two sections for the first time.”

A component of the program is also having the students interact with area professionals, such as Paul Nolta, assistant director for Small Business Development Center of the Inland Empire.

Nolta, who currently works out of the Temecula Valley Entrepreneurs Exchange in Temecula, answered the call six years ago when Levin first launched the program, and continues to train the students about how to put together a business plan. He also coordinates a panel of businesspeople to critique the students.

“The accounting, the budgeting, the marketing…It is amazing to watch the kids from the very beginning to where they are giving amazing presentations,” Nolta said.

Members of the local business community who would like to get involved are encouraged to email