Hot off a second-place finish at this week’s DECA provincial competition, a team of talented young business and marketing students from Scarlett Heights Entrepreneurial Academy is now destined for California to compete against the best in the world.
DECA – or Developing Excellence Celebrating Achievement – is a non-profit organization that currently provides 8,500 student members in more than 200 high schools across Ontario with hands-on experience in the fields of marketing, business and entrepreneurship – enhancing their classroom learning by providing conference and competition experience.
Three-thousand of those DECA students descended upon the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto this week to compete against the best and brightest in Ontario during the 34th Annual DECA Provincial Competition – and the team from Scarlett Heights walked away with a second place finish, qualifying for the internationals in April.
“If you had asked me before the competition ‘do you think they could win?’ I would have said ‘absolutely!’” said Scarlett Heights Principal Rizwana Jafri, who doubles as the DECA club’s advisor. “But then I got there and I realized there were 3,000 students in the competition. So for them to win, they did a phenomenal job.”
The winning team – consisting of Amran Hassan, 17, Ikran Egal, 17, and Hafsa Isse, 18 – won over the judges with a presentation of their 30-page business plan for a line of jewelry called Styleelyts, which they designed, produced, marketed and sold all on their own. To see photos of the girls’ Styleelyts jewelry line, go to www.styleeyesee.blogspot.ca, or follow their Instagram @styleelyts or Twitter @styleelytstrio accounts.
For the members of the winning team, the whole Styleelyts experience has been a labour of love, said Hafsa.
“It’s not like an extracurricular that we’re doing for the heck of it. We love to do it,” she said. “And our project, Styleelyts, is jewelry – and we all love jewelry. At first when we started making it, we never thought we could, like, sell it or that other people would like it. But people really do like it.”
At Scarlett Heights’ annual Winter Wonderland Fair back in December, in fact, the Styleelyts team quickly sold out of their stock of head chains, necklaces and earrings as their classmates snatched them up for Christmas presents.
“We had to go back home and make some more and bring them back, because so many people put in orders,” added Hafsa. “We’ve been getting a lot of support from students...they’re even taking pictures of themselves in our jewelry and posting them on social media, which is really cool. We didn’t even ask them to do that. They’re advertising for us.”
Now that the girls have qualified for DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, California – which takes place from April 22-29 – the team is set to take their Styleelyts line to a whole new level, including a new line of crocheted necklaces.
“We’re going to make more jewelry and a whole bunch of new designs,” said Amran. “We never thought we would get this kind of recognition. It started off as just a group of three friends having fun, but it’s grown.”
Calling her fellow club members “all very bright individuals,” Scarlett Heights’ DECA club president Josie Chau, 17, lauded Hafsa, Ikran and Amran – and individual top 20 finalist Safia Hirsi, 16 – for their dedication to the DECA’s principles and ideals.
“They’re great speakers, great presenters and great innovators – but they’re also all so modest,” she said, giving credit to DECA for bringing them all out of their shells.
“At the end of the day, people still ask me ‘what is DECA?’ To me, DECA is basically a huge network and family where people have high aspirations and they strive to become one of the best of the best in the whole world...The reason why we all love DECA because it creates friendships, too, and lets people evolve out of their shells. Because in Grade 9 and 10, everyone goes through an identity crisis – it’s a teenage thing. You’re lost, you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re that little wallflower in the hallways.
“But once you join DECA, you join a family. Not only are we there for academic purposes, we are all there for each other, too.”