By Greg Gelpi
It's not the boardroom atop Trump Tower, but Lovejoy High School is employing business strategies from NBC's The Apprentice to teach its students.
Mike Steele, who entered teaching after a career in sales, has connected the real world with textbook theories in his marketing classes.
"What I try to do is give them ideas to apply to the real world," Steele said. "My spiel from day one has been that marketing is all around you."
When his future father-in-law, Roger Powell, approached him about designing a logo for his new business, he immediately turned to his students.
After playing the episode of The Apprentice about advertising for his class, the class got to work designing a logo, incorporating the ideas and business strategies of billionaire businessman and show host Donald Trump.
The reality TV show pits up-and-coming business people against each other, competing for a job working for Trump. Each week the contestants perform various business-related tasks, and one contestant is "fired."
"These kids love reality TV, and this lets them apply what they know," Steele said. "(The show is) great when it comes to business lessons."
He explained that the show demonstrates negotiations and the importance of dealing with the head of a business.
From the advertising episode, the students learned to study a business before trying to advertise for a business.
More than 100 students from five of Steele's marketing classes submitted designs for the logo.
Seniors Porshia Fowler and Patrice Evans worked together to create the overall winning logo that included a palm tree in the design. The state flag of South Carolina, where the business is based, has a palm tree in the flag. The two also played off Myrtle Beach, the home of the company, and Coastal Reps, LLC, the name of the company.
Powell went through each design and chose the best design for each class, awarding the student or team of students a consulting fee. He also chose one design overall to use for his company. Already, Powell has designed business cards with the student-conceived and student-created logo.
"There weren't any I didn't like," Powell said. "You could tell the creativity they put into it."
He said he was pleasantly surprised by the quality of work and hopes to work with the students again in the future.
Fowler said she intends to go to study fashion design in college and eventually open her own business.
"We do work in there, but he makes it fun," Fowler said of Steele.
Evans shares her aspirations of being an entrepreneur. She wants to begin a typography company.
"He talks about managing your own business and how to get started," Evans said.
Steele said he uses his background in business to teach the practical, rather than the theoretical, and his class reflects that teaching philosophy.
"I didn't learn this from theory," he said. "I learned this from practical experience."
The Lovejoy Chik-fil-A has partnered with the Lovejoy High marketing classes, in fact, to offer internships to the top five students in Steele's marketing classes.
"They don't do fast-food," Steele said. "They just do marketing."
Another Lovejoy business found itself struggling to remain open and turned to the marketing classes last year. With ideas such as changing business hours and offering coffee, the students were able to keep the business open a few more months.