Academy of Finance Spring Conference at the beautiful Kossiakoff Center at the Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The campus is a feel-good place because you just feel smarter being among so many brilliant scientists. For those who might not know, scientists from all over the world trek to the APL in Laurel to discuss path-breaking scientific research. If anyone in the world has a question about Jupiter, for example, they very likely could find the world's expert at the APL.
The Academy of Finance is a Howard County Public Schools program open to students of all Howard County public schools who are in interested in getting a jump on a career in economics, finance, or business. Yesterday's program was attended by approximately 75 students (rough eyeball count) and focused on "Entrepreneurship: Business in the Future."
The program was bracketed by the keynote speakers. Fran Kirley, CEO of Nexion Health, was the opening keynote speaker; and he described how he started his nursing and rehabilitative services company at the age of 50 after spending a career as a hospital administrator. He vividly described all the functions his company is responsible for, including meal preparation. He stressed the importance of his employees and having them feel that their work is important. Mr. Kirley took the students through a step-by-step process of starting a business, including methods of financing when starting up; and the one point above all that stood out was the importance of having a passion for the service you provide.
After a short introduction to the breakout sessions by Academy of Finance instructor Dr. Maddy Halbach, students either went to presentations or practiced interviewing skills with volunteers from the community. DIY Investor interviewed several students and was very impressed. Students made excellent eye contact and gave specific examples in answer to difficult questions. They smiled and appeared at ease. They were clear in describing their short-term as well as long-term plans. As DIY Investor commented on their sheets, these students performed better in their practice interviews than did many that DIY Investor has seen in the real work world.
DIY Investor also attended a breakout session led by Cary Millstein of the Welming Group, a company that sells nuts in China. A number of students in the room had been to Asia and related well to the stories he told. He talked about the currency, tariffs, and the importance of the World Trade Organization. He talked about duty trade zones. He even said that he had thought about doing the same business in India but most likely won't. He pointed it out as an opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur.
In all, there were 12 breakout sessions the students could choose from, ranging from "Careers in Insurance and Public Service" by Joy Hatchette and Sandra Castagna to "Electronic Marketing" by (former "Apprentice" participant) Aaron Altscher.
The second keynote speaker was Kwame Kuadey, CEO & Founder of Gift Card Rescue. He described how his company will pay you for that Macy's gift card you don't want and then resell it at a markup to someone who likes to shop at Macy's. This problem of getting gift cards from people who don't want them (sorry Aunt Sally) to people who do in today's economy is the problem his company was set up to solve, and he said this is a key for an entrepreneur - find a problem to solve for people. A student asked an excellent question about how he got clients to trust him since he does business online. Mr. Kuadey responded that this was an obstacle and that he solved it by using video testimonies on his website and becoming an expert on the subject of gift cards. As a recognized expert, he is quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc., which bolsters confidence in potential clients doing business online.
At the end of the day, Ed Evans, principal of ARL, complimented the students on their professional behavior, attention, and questions they asked of the speakers.
DIY Investor has to say that students in Howard County are lucky to have a diverse group of accomplished business people in Howard County willing to share their experiences with students as well the opportunity to participate in a program like the Academy of Finance.
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