Jan. 22—Ryker Solano, the Virtual Enterprise adviser for Bakersfield High’s highly successful program, sometimes gets confused about when the Drillers have won the national title for the business plan competition.
That’s bound to happen because BHS has done so much winning in the competition that features sales pitches and innovative products that could give “Shark Tank” a run for its money.
Solano is pretty sure the Drillers went back-to-back with championships in 2017 and 2018, the latter the last time a Kern County program has won a national title. Overall, BHS has captured three national titles and Centennial has won two, in 2006 and 2013. Prior to Solano, Jacob Stuebbe was the adviser for the Drillers, who won the national title in 2009.
Last year, Bakersfield High finished second in the nation and has sent a team to the national competition 10 straight times (not including 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID-19).
The Drillers will try to make it 11 times straight when the Virtual Enterprise state competition comes to Mechanics Bank Arena Thursday and Friday.
“I wish I could take a whole lot of credit, but it’s really the students who are going out there and getting grilled,” said Solano, who also teaches in social studies and career technical education programs. “I’ve just been fortunate to have some wonderful students throughout this timeframe.”
That 2018 BHS team sticks out as a highlight for Ryker.
“But that’s like asking who is your favorite child,” he said.
The 2018 team, known as Anomalous, created sustainable juices and snacks from imperfect produce that have bumps and bruises and are often discarded.
Bakersfield’s business plan team has another great idea to present on Thursday.
“This year, our team is doing snack boxes that are centered on mental wellness,” Solano said. “The snacks are high in nutrients and vitamins that promote mental health. They have researched everything.”
Last year, Bakersfield, Centennial and Ridgeview qualified business plan teams for the nationals. At the state competition, the teams vie to be among the top eight to advance to the national event in New York, at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.
“We have a lot of support for the virtual enterprise program,” said Brian Miller, principal of the Kern High Regional Occupational Programs. “It’s a valuable program and a good way for kids to be exposed to business.”
Miller pointed out that the community support, which includes volunteers from local businesses, has greatly helped the Kern High School District teams succeed.
He said the results are usually seen during the VE trade show on Friday from 10 am to 1 pm in the arena.
A new competition among the events taking place Thursday will involve challenged students to produce a rapid prototype in a matter of minutes.
There are also competitions for human resources, an elevator pitch and marketing, Miller said.
“It’s pretty exciting to see how polished the kids are,” Miller said. “They are all dressed professionally.”