is arguable that the Atlanta Caribbean
Trading Company – ACTCo – as an educational and entrepreneurial tool, was
the most successful student run business in educational history. A review
of the research lists school-located companies that were larger in scale or
grossed far more money. I’m aware of a large New York City high school
student union that managed a bagel and cream cheese breakfast program that
annually grossed over $100,000 in today’s dollars. But in terms of
application of basic concepts / objectives that the IBP was trying to teach,
none put the curriculum to practice and profit better than ACTCo.
thank and recognize Mrs. Ann Goellner, a visionary educator who foresaw in 1985
the importance of the global economy and Caribbean to Atlanta. Ann
established the North Fulton H. S. Center for International Studies Program in
1982 that was the first IB Program in the State of Georgia. Over the next
two years, Ann observed that some of her IB students might prefer a fast track
program into the world of business with an experiential learning componet and
started the International Business Program (IBP). In 1985, Ann persuaded
the CIS’s Board of Directors to incorporate a non-profit student run enterprise
and capitalize it with $500. The Board was Chaired by Dr. Wayne Lord, who
at that time was an international commodities broker and currently is the
President of the World Affairs Council associated with the GSU Robinson School
of International Business. Dr. Lord has been a warrior for international
business education for decades.
Doug Frutiger succeeded Mrs. Goellner in 1998 and he and I continued to expand
the program’s network of sister schools and grow the company into ever more
areas of the school’s culture to new sub-markets. Our strategy was to set
goals: connect with the greater community, penetrate global markets, add new
product lines, devise innovative marketing strategies, organize the next student
exchange / buying mission. The below copy of the corporate license
exempted the company from paying taxes which lowered prices. The
competitive edge and profit margin was further enhanced from no rent, no
utility costs, and student intern labor.
corporation was an umbrella operation that included the student run company,
the school store, and an online e-commerce site. The high profit margin
was needed to pay for the internet connection, email capacity, and www.actco.org
web site to Mindspring – this cost an average of $50 to a $100 a month.
Doug and I constantly sought financial support from the school system but were
not relieved of this cost until 1999 when the whole school system was wired.
It later turned out that the APS Computer Technology Specialist
that seemingly kept finding reasons to deny support was convicted for taking
$300,000 in bribes from the contracting IT company. Virtually all of our
computers were donated by private companies – most were used but all helped
tax exempt corporation / student run enterprise was the sweetest educational
tool any instructor has ever been blessed with. ACTCo was the perfect
platform for constantly improving the program and company. The
corporation followed the bylaws scrupulously – the Board of Directors usually
met twice a year – Fall and Spring – and were constituted as (listed below) in
2003. The Board expanded in 1995 when Bruce Gaynes became the legal adviser
and remained in place until my retirement in June 2004.
below list of Directors was for our final meeting in May 2004 – the Board
shaped the IBP’s best practices and principles for nine exciting years. Delphia
Bryant is only listed here because she was principal – she did not attend the
Board meeting. During that time, six North Atlanta principals came and
went while the Board studiously pushed the program and company forward.
will always be indebted to the good men and a few ladies who volunteered their
time and expertise to benefit the program and students. I honor the
memory of my father-in-law Herman Auerbach who designed the Warrior Warehouse
School Store and shared his vast, long business knowledge with his grateful
son-in-law. Herman’s grandson Sasha Heller won the school-wide contest to
name the School Store the Warrior
Blitch was the original International Trade instructor and connected ACTCo to
Servv, the wholesale arts and crafts distributorship. Gordon assisted the
IBP for over a decade – the students adored him – I was very grateful for his
helping us in so many ways.
the original corporate by-laws and the amended version by Bruce Gaynes in 1995
ACTCo web / home page with e-commerce component.
of American granted the IBP / ACTCo another Small Business Visa Credit Card –
within a year, the lines was raised to $4,500. This new capital source
allowed for timely bill paying, ended cash squeezes, and financed steady
company growth. This capital infusion also greatly improved / expanded
the online catalog company.
/ ACTCo School Store Inventory Sept. 11, 2002
ACTCo inventory consisted of 2,141 items, total cost of product was
$2,761.65, total value of all retail goods (cost + profit) was $4,297.10.
idea of students managing a company suggests that students also purchase the
goods for sale. We tried this procurement strategy with great integrity
to the principle of student groups doing the purchasing. That required
student groups after school or in the evening traveling to make a store
visit. The students made a great effort to adhere to this management
challenge – no supply chain breakdowns was our goal – but life is not so
convenient. I also worried about possible liabilities such as an accident
and / or lawsuit.
recurring problem of students failing at times to make their store visit
developed after ACTCo began selling school supplies that had become a key part
of the business plan. North Atlanta High students, disembarking from
their buses in morning or walking past the store on way to board for their ride
home, see the schools supplies for sale. The student remembers that they needed
a pen or whatever, or maybe a school t-shirt, they stop and buy the good which
ACTCo had to make available.
student / customer was not going to like hearing that the good was expected in
a day or two. After too many mishaps and the stated risks, it became
apparent that I would have to assume this task. Given my other
responsibilities, I became quite adept at making fast purchases at Office Depot
or Staples on my way home from work. We also used other wholesalers who
took our order over the phone or online. I have provided invoices of a typical
beginning of the school year visit to Office Depot.
two above invoices represent the annual large purchase order from Office Depot
and other sources to capitalize on back to school needs each year.
IBP students were enrolled in a College Prep pattern that happened to include a
business component. Ironically, their requirements did not include
Accounting / Bookkeeping which had to be taken as an elective. Very few
students had room in their schedule for Book Keeping which essentially drew
vocational Business Education students headed directly after high school in to
a white collar business world. Fortunately, the IBP student enrollment
always had a parent who was a professional accountant and a child with an interest
in it. Truly formalized, professional accounting procedures took nearly
seven years to fully institute – the Board of Directors, especially Elliot
Millman, pushed the program to improve in this area.
responded by getting monthly and annual reports input into the computer and
typed up but not as well and regularly as a high business standard
required. I maintained an informal backup ledger of sorts to record
monthly and annual gross sales totals and number of transactions to track the
average per customer spending amount(s). One can observe, after opening
of the school store in May 1996, company sales becoming much steadier though
sharp spikes still occurred in months with important holidays through
successful meeting of short term demand.
that these figures are reported in 1995 – 2003 dollars which are not adjusted
for inflation since then.
copy of gross sales is the only one that covers an extended period of time –
annual reports and bank records (checking account, credit card) exist and will
be printed in another document. Notice the month of October – if the
football team was winning, there was extraordinary demand for school t-shirts
and sales zoomed. If the team was losing, t-shirt sales slackened
2000 – 2001 annual report that included Super – Exchange V’s production costs
marked the peak of comprehensive, accurate accounting / record keeping.
We, the program / teachers / students all did our best under the
circumstances. The other great successes trumped this lone program
trade example: The IBP / ACTCo, as a sister city educational project,
imported $232 worth of Ahava skin care products through Ra’anana, Israel’s
Ostrovsky High School. The Young Entrepreneurs of Ostrovsky High, acting
as middlemen, purchased the product and used a courier heading to Atlanta to
escort the goods through customs. The IBP / ACTCo turned around and sold
half of the product to the Marcus Jewish Community Center Gift Shop and sold
the other half out of the Warrior Warehouse School Store.
IBP / ACTCo paid for the $232 purchase from OYE through a Bank of America wire
transfer – represents direct involvement in international trade.
Warrior Warehouse School Store, located nearby the daily bus drop off and pick
up station that a majority of the school walked by during the course of a day
led to impulse selling. At the beginning of the year, a student in a
suburban high school brought a rifle to school and shot nine classmates.
This frightening event motivated the Atlanta Public Schools and North Atlanta
to order all students entering the school to be directed through metal
detectors located in the gym entrance. Supposedly, the reason given was
that North Atlanta’s reality / characteristics mirrored this other school and
had to take precaution. Therefore, the bus drop off and pickup
station had to be moved to the other side of the parking lot in front of the
gym entrance. Store traffic diminished greatly and resulted in scrapping
to reach $6,000 in gross sales compared to nearly $3,000 more the previous
year. Store traffic could not be increased and gross sales settled into a
new level. IBP / ACTCo had stopped growing and we tried to expand online
efforts but with little success.
Schmitt-van Shank, the mother of an Alfred Wegener Schule (AWO) student, worked
hard for several years to install the IBP. Her above email describes a
venture between AWO students and the NAHS IBP. In 2003, after two years
of student exchanges and program development, the AWO faculty, believing the
school to be to small and under-funded to successfully build the IBP, voted to
terminate the relationship and focus the resources into other areas of the
/ ACTCo student evaluation concepts / applications:
IBP / ACTCo was in annual pursuit of internet education grants to pay for the
web site, web master training fees, increased bandwidth charges from
Mindspring. AT & T and the CIBER at Georgia Tech each provided
significant grants for consecutive three year periods. I recall my
first meeting with Dr. John McIntyre in 1999 – the IBP concept had grown big
and spread far enough to begin conceiving of an International Baccalaureate
type program. Doug and I proposed to John our vision at the risk of
sounding delusional. John didn’t blink, flashed a big smile, he had
expected nothing less from us and offered the CIBER’s resources to help develop
and grade the battery of tests needed to earn the IBP Diploma. John felt
that Tech had a mission to better connect with the greater community and he
started with North Atlanta just a few miles up Northside Drive.
old friend that had missed Super – Exchange V after sending delegations to the
first four suddenly surfaced in 2002. Mainor School of Economics Rector
Toomas Saals contacted me. Toomas explained that he had lost control of
Mainor for almost two years but had just regained it again and hoped to resume
Atlanta / Montego Bay delegations visited Heidelberg, German as guests of
Ludwig Erhardt Schule – pictured at farewell party.
the Atlanta system nor Federation were able to finance this proposed athletic
exchange between the North Atlanta High Girls Basketball Team and Ostrovsky
High’s Girl Basketball Team.
Parks of Terry Fox in British Columbia and I were both retiring at the same
time. Given the postponement of Super-Exchange 6 – Montego Bay H. S. was
unable to host it due to a scheduling conflict with taking national
examinations – Maureen and I decided to bring joint IBP student delegations to
the Turks & Caicos Islands who had been to SE V.
at first tried to set up a half time position to keep the program and exchange
network continuing – Kathie Augustine, Assistant Superintendent, denied that
proposal. I approached the more talented and motivated members of the
Social Studies Department to please assume my position or the IBP would quickly
fall apart and dissolve. I was politely told by several that I worked too
hard – that no one had the time to invest that I did. Granted, I did work
hard but the obvious rewards were so fantastic that it never seemed like work
IBP / www.actco.org web site and home page: