Central Coast New Tech Lights Up Student Engagement with Candle Start-Up Project

June 19, 2018

By Emma Kauffman, Digital Marketing Intern

“After six years of designing and facilitating projects at Central Coast New Tech, I have never had a more engaging and authentic experience with my students,” Central Coast New Tech teacher Jennifer Stillittano said. The Direlights: Let Some Light In project was facilitated by Stillittano, and was created to give students the ability to run a real start-up business using an entrepreneurial mindset. One of three projects in a dual enrollment course, students created a business plan and canvas  for a candle-making business which culminated in a visit to Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship where they pitched the business plans to local entrepreneurs.

Stillittano tried to, as she put it, “foster a strong sense of agency and collaboration” while planning the project. By assigning students benchmarks  like creating a project calendar and task list, students learned the importance of setting goals and working ahead in order to be proactive in business rather than reactive. There was also a personal connection to the project as students were assigned tasks that aligned with their own interests. Matthew Richardson, a student in the course, had an interest in graphic design – he was encouraged and “hired” to explore the role of the graphic designer in a business and also apply his skills to further the project, even creating the DireLights logo.

“One of my passions is graphic design and this is the first time I had the opportunity to apply that to a business. It combined my passion with my schooling.” Richardson said.

Throughout the project, experts served as guest speakers – talking to the students about various aspects of the Entrepreneurial Mindset needed to start and run a successful business. Learning from industry professionals allowed for community connections and real-world collaboration skills. There were also regular team meetings to track student progress and reflect on learning in order to identify next steps to project need to knows.. Stillittano intentionally created obstacles for her students to overcome, focusing on how a business mindset means that students need to be able to grow and adapt to change. This allowed for their projects to be business models, adaptable to possible challenges in the future.

Thanks to financial and logistical support from Real World Scholars,  Direlights.com is a fully functional, student-run artisan candle company.

Stillittano is excited to start  another year, having already secured community connections. “My students have successfully started a profitable company that is leaving a legacy for next years class to continue to build and grow,” Stillittano said.

Read the Business Model Canvas , DireLights Company PlayBook, and DireLights Pitch Presentation Slide Deck used when pitching the business to real Entrepreneurs at the SLO HotHouse , part of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

View an example of one student’s Blog Posts on the Entrepreneurial Mindset

To view pictures of the candles, check out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Central Coast New Tech
Teacher: Jennifer Stillittano
Course: Entrepreneurial Mindsets
Grade: 10-12

Driving Question:

What makes a business work?

Project Snapshot

This project, DireLights: Let Some Light In, allowed students to explore the entrepreneurial mindset while creating their own real start-up business proposal for a candle company.  The duration of the project involved a number of steps such as creating a business plan, a timeline for the project’s outcome, and interviewing real experts who do the jobs the students were simulating in their course. The project also highlighted why each aspect was crucial to how a successful business would operate in the real-world. The project finished with the students presenting their findings to local entrepreneurs at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, allowing students to have their work recognized by professionals.  

Student Products

Students were happy to be able to express their own personal skills with this project. From students who want to be anything from politicians to graphic designers, they expressed that they enjoyed learning relevant skills for their future. Delanie Tilema, a senior in the course, talked about how this way of learning helped her to overcome setbacks with a new way of thinking. Other students talked about how this type of project allowed them to do things in order of importance and manage their time accordingly.


More about the Project:


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