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Business class, reality show style

It wasn't exactly high finance, but two groups of Rosemount High School students got a taste in November and December of just what it takes to run a business.

All that was missing was Donald Trump.

For several weeks in November and December the students in Ryan Harrison's first-hour marketing class developed products, set up marketing strategies and sold to students and teachers in the building. The students got an idea of what it takes to run a business, and the money raised went to the RHS Random Acts of Kindness Fund to help students who need help covering school-related costs.

For five days this month two teams of students pitted their products -- gum and coffee tumblers -- to see who could bring in the most money. Students were required to produce balance sheets, sales forecasts and sales strategies.

This is the first year for the project.

"I was looking for a simulation and I've always been a fan of The Apprentice and I've always been a fan of Shark Tank and I just said, 'Why not?'," said Harrison, who served as the Trump for this particular project. "I'm glad I said, 'Why not?'"

The students seem glad, too.

"It worked out nice that we got to design it and basically do the whole process," said Kristen Farris, a member of the tumbler team.

The two teams took different approaches to the challenge. The gum team aimed to sell large numbers of their product at low prices, the tumbler team low numbers at higher prices.

They had to adjust along the way, too. The gum team started out with packs at $1.50, but lowered the price when sales were slow. The tumbler team had to adjust its prices, too.

Both teams aimed to meet needs they saw in the school.

"Every day in school if you have gum, 10 people will ask you for a piece," said Cory Pederson, a member of the gum team.

Students used that to their advantage. They'd sit in class and pop a piece of gum in their mouth. If anyone asked them to share, they'd offer to sell them a pack.

"You had to learn a lot about how to approach people," Pederson said.

The competition was supposed to be friendly -- Harrison threatened a failing grade for anyone caught sabotaging the competition. But students on both teams still wanted to come out on top. There were a few friendly staredowns when students on opposing teams found themselves selling in the same classroom. And there might even have been a few rumors spread.

"They were telling people our gum made your teeth go green," Pederson said.

Overall, Harrison believes the project gave students an accurate picture of what it takes to make a business successful. The competition was good for students, and it was good for the school, too. On Monday, the students presented a check for $390 to the Random Acts of Kindness Fund.

For anyone keeping score, about $220 of that came from the tumbler team and $170 from the gum team.