Tiger’s Den » Veale Entrepreneurs

School-Based Businesses

Chagrin Falls' Tiger's Den

The Tiger’s Den, located in Chagrin Falls High School, is a student run spirit store that opened during the 2023 Fall semester. We sat down with educator John Bakalar and three students: Jack Keegan (sophomore), Cooper Ryan (junior), and Renner Matta (junior).

Lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

For someone who has not visited the school store, explain what the Tiger’s Den is and how it came about.

Jack – It’s new this year – this used to be the senior’s lounge. Everything in here was renovated this summer, it kind of got finished up halfway through the first semester. What we do is we make spirit wear for everyone. It’s a brick-and-mortar store. Everything you see up here is the front of the store. The back of the store is where we press stuff – we have a heat press, storage, a Cricut which is a cutter so you can put stuff in a program into one of the iMacs and the Cricut will cut it out.

How do students get involved in the Tiger’s Den?

Mr. Bakalar – It’s a semester long class, that makes it a little challenging but we have about 20 students. When I first started doing this the class was the company and it got to be too much. We were inefficient because we had too many people and stuff was still not being done. We tried to make it more competitive. We split it into two teams to motivate them. There’s one team of 10 students and another team of 10 students, they each had $1,500 as a budget through Veale Youth Entrepreneurship funds. Then they were able to go out and buy sweatshirts or socks or hats – stuff they’re targeting toward themselves and students and middle school students. They’ve done a lot of market research.

How does the class work? What is the process like each semester?

Mr. Bakalar – Anyone who wanted to run one of the teams had to give a speech as to why they should be selected – like an election. Then the class voted on their two CEOs. What we had then was a draft. Everyone who was not a CEO was considered and could be drafted. So if they’re good at Photoshop or if they think they’re good at sales, or they think they’re good at speaking, or they think they’re good at math. They basically had to sell themselves to the CEO and then we had a draft. From there they had to research which should be the products to sell and what should be the strategy. Once we got started running it was then how are we going to sell our things? They’ve done promotions, they’ve done sales, they’ve done discounts, we’ve gone to a lacrosse game. Our goal is to be able to get to the elementary schools.

You said before that the two companies compete separately throughout the semester. How do you track each business’ success throughout the semester?

Every week they’re given a task list and they have to complete these tasks. Two social media posts a week, it has to get 50 likes. If you combine the two, they have to count their inventory twice. They have to run a couple of sales reports and see how much revenue they’ve made and, in the end, they’re competing against criteria: How much inventory did they sell? How much revenue did they bring in? How close to profitable are they or are they profitable and then their social media stats and what was their average post and how many times did they post per week and things like that.

What is the typical day for this class like? What does the class do regularly to run the Tiger’s Den?

Jack – Mr. Bakalar’s classroom is on the third floor; we all meet up there for about two minutes. He’ll give us the rundown of what we’re going to do and then, we’ll either all head down to the Tiger’s Den or the Innovation Center, which is over in the middle school, depending on what we have to do and then we all split up. I’m usually in here along with most of the other team and I kind of run things from here and I dish out what people have to do.

What has your experience been like working for Tiger’s Den and why did you get involved?

Cooper – It’s been an awesome experience, I signed up to be in this class last winter because I heard so many great things about it and I saw the great things on social media [of them] trying to promote their business. I thought it would look fun so I signed up. It’s a great experience. It’s fun to be able to get creative during school hours and make stuff, practice selling stuff to people, talk to people and all that good stuff.

Renner – I took Mr. Bakalar’s Financial Literacy class which I really enjoyed so I took this class and I’m very happy with my decision, happy how that all worked out because I’ve had a lot of fun. I like doing all the stuff you can do like making, designing and the finance stuff I really like.

How do you think working in a school-based business helps you to build life skills and work toward future goals?

Jack – I recently had to get a job and I put this class on my resume because the things you learn in here about spreadsheets and how to use a terminal and everything – it’s kind of a skillset you earn by just taking this class.

Cooper – I think real world skills – for example we have a task where you have to go classroom to classroom and make a pitch about your company or specific product. I think that’s a good lesson that can only be learned in a class like this where there’s not a lot of other opportunities in school where you’re able to do that.

Renner – I learned a lot about the finances that go back into the business which I thought was interesting. I like finances and money and stuff like that. So that’s good and learning how to do a sales pitch. At the beginning, we made a sales pitch to our superintendent for support on it. I thought it was interesting. It really helps with presentation skills and really prepares you for business in the real world.

Do you think this class has helped you learn skills you would use in a future career? Would that career involve business or entrepreneurship?

Cooper – I think I will end up on the business side of things. I’m not really sure where I will fall yet. Not sure what I will major in yet – probably business but I’m not sure what specifically yet. I think this will definitely help me down the line.

Renner – I definitely want to go into business. Probably not entrepreneurship, I don’t think I’m the kind of guy to start my own business but maybe climb my way up the ladder in someone else’s business.

What would you say to another student who is interested in taking this class or a similar style class at another school?

Mr. Bakalar – I’d say go for it. If you want to be an executive, you can put yourself out there and see if you get picked or if you want to be a CEO you can run for it and if you want to use the tools, you can be on the supply chain. It just has something for everyone.

What would you say to an educator who is thinking of opening their own school-based business or participating in a program through VYEF?

Mr. Bakalar – I would say obviously go for it – I mean, without the funding, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. I know we had a lot of support from other organizations as well, but I know we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Veale Foundation. I think it’s a great source of funding to be able to take that next step.