Author: Nicole Mehlman-Davidow
Mount St. Mary Academy students are able to participate in a unique program called Academy Scholars, in which students run their own real world and virtual businesses. MSM student businesses include both real products and virtual businesses. MSM students are affiliated with two international programs: Virtual Enterprises International (VE) and Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). They’ve competed to great success locally, regionally, nationally, internationally – and virtually, during this time of COVID. Collectively, Mount entrepreneurs have networked with fellow teen and adult entrepreneurs, corporate and nonprofit executives, academics, elected officials and international leaders.
One of those businesses is an online virtual enterprise called Fly By Fashion, which is made up of twenty-one MSM students. The group has a Fashion Show highlighting different items from local boutiques in Buffalo on January 22, with News4’s Gabrielle Mediak as the evening’s emcee. The fashion show is completely student run and will include eleven boutiques participating. Their theme this year is ‘Cozy Couture.’
Sheila Strott is a senior at MSM, and one of the Fashion Designers for the company.
“Academy Scholars, and Fly By Fashion has allowed me to step into leadership roles, as I am the co- executive of operations. In this role I can fully showcase all of my organizational skills and become a stronger leader,” she says. “Fly By Fashion has actually led me to want to study business management in college next year!”
Strott goes on to say, “I have also been able to contribute skills in marketing, sales, management, and networking. This upcoming fashion show will be a way to showcase all of our team’s hard work and dedication.”
Fly By Fashion determines consumers’ fashion favorites through an online quiz on their website. The results will be used to determine fashion trends fit for the user. A virtual stylist selects clothing, footwear and accessories. Fly By Fashion’s products are delivered to you three times per year. Customers can invest in three different packages Gold, Diamond, and Platinum, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 a year. In order for clothing to be delivered in an eco-friendly manner, the firm utilizes drone delivery.
In order for clothing to be delivered in an eco-friendly manner, the firm utilizes drone delivery.
Fly By Fashion is part of MSM Academy Scholars’ partnership with Virtual Enterprises International. VE is an educational nonprofit that works with high schools all over the world to create a curriculum that turns classes into virtual businesses. Students work in departments to manage day-to-day functions of their business and produce products, assess profits vs. costs, respond to challenges, and participate in a variety of business-related events and activities, in-person, and through VE’s own global marketplace.
Virtual Enterprise’s virtual businesses, like Fly by Fashion, allows students to connect with one another, trade through VE’s global banking system, and compete in competitions all over the world. Through this virtual business students buy and sell products and services, prepare taxes, select insurance and retirement options, and experience financial market dynamics. This prepares young entrepreneurs to eventually run their own real-world businesses, and allows them to have a unique experience through a global market that tests them, while also providing travel opportunities and the ability to communicate with students all over the world.
Virtual Enterprises has led to global recognition for Academy Scholars, but some students decide to go smaller. In 2020, four students created a greeting card business, but wanted their cards to help others going through tough times. Cards for a Cause was born and now has multiple designs printed, ranging from holiday cards to get well cards. Right now, they have over 1,000 cards printed and ready to be sold. Unlike Fly By Fashion, Cards for a Cause is a real-life business that the group can profit from.
“We wanted to pick a cause that we all felt passionate about, and settled on mental health because receiving a card can put a smile on someone’s face,” said Mount St. Mary Senior Ava Kuty. “I love that our cards can bring such joy to others. Anything that can improve someone’s mood is a win in my book and so important to me because I know how even something small can make a big difference.”
The Mental Health Association of Niagara County recently purchased Fifty Christmas/Holiday cards from Cards for a Cause to send to their supporters. The association is expanding their youth programming.
Daniel Colpoys, the Executive Director of the Niagara County Mental Health Association, went on to praise MSM’s students, “I love these young entrepreneurs, as well as the school! They have chosen to bring attention to the struggles of youth with mental health diagnosis. Early intervention and treatment could help prevent these issues from getting worse as the kids grow into adulthood.”
Knowing that people read our cards and feel any sort of hope or joy is why we continue this business. We wanted to create something that helped to make the world a better place,” said MSM Senior Mia Quarantillo. “When COVID-19 began, we knew that a kind message from loved ones, saying that someone is thinking about you, is what a lot of people needed. We hope to bring joy and hope to people through all of life’s hardships even if it means simply creating cards to do so.”
Owning a successful business has paid off exponentially for Rebecca Shaw, who is one of the founders of Cards for a Cause, and paints and designs for the group.
Owning a successful business has paid off exponentially for Rebecca Shaw, who is one of the founders of Cards for a Cause, and paints and designs for the group. Shaw was recently matched to the University of Chicago through the highly selective QuestBridge program. She was awarded a full-ride scholarship to attend the University. “I’m both excited and nervous to be receiving the scholarship because I know that it’s relieving a huge burden on myself and my family,” said Shaw. “My plan is to study general biology or biochemistry on a pre-med track and minor in environmental policy. At UChicago, I wish to incorporate environmental studies outside of school to make advancements in local policy.”
Most sixteen-year-olds aren’t worried about their net-profit for the year after calculating out time spent, supplies and other expenditures, but Kayleigh Fick has her work calculated and ready to present. Fick is currently a Junior at Mount St. Mary Academy and her baking business, Buffalo Girl Desserts, has been steadily growing as she markets her skills and delicious treats. She is the President, CEO, Head Baker, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator of her own business.
Fick grew up baking with her grandmother and mother. “As a kid it was the only thing that would distract me long enough for my mom to get anything done,” she joked. “I would just go to town decorating cookies.” Fick’s Academy Scholars business is unique in that she runs Buffalo Girl Desserts alone, and she keeps the money earned.
What was originally a project has turned into a thriving business. She makes her products at home, and sells her baked goods at various functions including the Thunder Storm Café at Mount St. Mary. The café is also an Academy Scholars run business, and is open to all the students, faculty and staff at the school.
[Flick] makes her products at home, and sells her baked goods at various functions including the Thunder Storm Café at Mount St. Mary.
Mount St. Mary Admissions Director Elizabeth Suchan-Reitz utilized Buffalo Girl Desserts for a staff meeting centered around Middle State Re-Accreditation.
“Working with Buffalo Girl Desserts was easy, and delicious! Kayleigh is a savvy and accommodating business woman,” says Suchan-Reitz . “I asked her about her ideas for a fall themed event I hosted at our school, and she responded with two menu options, and I used both! I’ve also used Buffalo Girl Desserts for my own personal celebrations and I’m a huge fan of her Red Velvet Cake dip; it’s become a staple for special occasions in our house!”
Fick originally began baking for close family and friends, but has since expanded to the rest of the student body, faculty and staff. “My next big event will likely be the St. Joe’s prom,” she says.
Whether students wish to join a global competition such as Fly By Fashion, or run a small business utilizing their skills, such as Cards for a Cause or Buffalo Girl Dessert, there is an opportunity for Mount St. Mary Academy students to build entrepreneurship skills, and add a unique detail to their resumes and college applications. The next generation of entrepreneurs in Buffalo may in fact be a group of young women dressed in plaid skirts and navy polos, helping to continue the revitalization of Western New York.
Fly by Fashion can be found at flybyfashion.wixsite.com
Cards for a Cause can be found at www.cardsforacause.store
Buffalo Girl Desserts can be found on Instagram: @buffalogirldesserts
Lead image: The Fly By Fashion team