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Baldwin students get down to business with bwINK | TribLIVE.com
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Baldwin students get down to business with bwINK

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Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Ninth-graders Josh Barone, 15, (left) and Austin Zirngibl, 15, search the Internet for a product they can pitch while focusing on sales during a JA (junior achievement ) project at Baldwin High School.
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Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
(from left) Senior Puspa Nepal, 17, junior Dash Phuiel,17, and junior Earl Woodyard, 16, pitch a product they found on the Internet, while studying sales during a JA (junior achievement) project at Baldwin High School.
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Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Sophomore Casey Conboy, 15, (center) pitches the BWink case created by the JA (Junior Achievement) team at Baldwin High School.
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Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
JA of Western PA President Dennis Gilfoyle (far right), looks on as (from left) Junior Justin Rowlands, 16, senior Mark Demore, 18, and junior Morgan Schaming pitch the BWink case created by the JA (Junior Achievement) team at Baldwin High School.

Dennis Gilfoyle stuck the white, pocket-like wallet with black embellishments to the back of his cellphone.

The president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania said he's certain the product will keep him from losing any more valuables. Recently, a replacement driver's license cost him $27.50.

“I wish I had this before,” Gilfoyle told a group of entrepreneurial students last week about their product.

More than a dozen Baldwin High School students studying under Gilfoyle through an after-school Junior Achievement program have formed a student-run company, bwINK. The company, which stands for Baldwin-Whitehall Industrious Kids, is selling its first product: flexible wallets that stick to the back of cellphones to hold valuables for $3.

“You don't have to worry about losing anything because you know you'll always have your cellphone in your hand anyway,” Baldwin junior Morgan Schaming, 17, said as she worked on an “elevator pitch,” a pitch designed to be delivered in a short window of time.

Members of bwINK are following a 13-week business plan through Junior Achievement, with online lessons and activities that teach them how to start and run a company. The students learned about product selection, how to give a presentation and crowd funding and were tasked with creating a video to sell their product at the school through the morning announcements. Their company has its own student-based board of directors and marketing, sales and customer service, finance, supply and leadership divisions.

“The biggest thing is their chance to start and operate a business for themselves,” Gilfoyle said.

The students learned about product development and held brainstorming sessions.

The cellphone wallet was the “most feasible out of all the ideas,” said Baldwin senior Samantha Scherrer, 18, a bwINK vice president.

The company purchased 500 wallets, and students plan to sell them in school and online. A group of students also plans to attend a Brentwood, Baldwin, Whitehall Chamber of Commerce meeting and hold a public sale at The Galleria of Mt. Lebanon on May 9.

“Don't bwINK and miss your opportunity,” Zach Zorko, 15, a Baldwin sophomore, said as he pitched the product to his classmates.

While participating in bwINK is a fun experience, the students said the most important part is the educational experience they're getting.

“It's a great way to learn and experience things that you wouldn't find in the classroom,” said Baldwin sophomore Nick Pantelis II, 16, who also serves as a bwINK vice president.

“You learn teamwork, communication and collaboration,” Scherrer said.

One of the most repeated lessons Gilfoyle has taught the students is that when moving forward in business, you need to decide “pivot or persevere,” Pantelis said.

“It's like in life; you either have to change the direction you're going or go full force with what you're doing,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or [email protected].

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