It 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.

I 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.

Dr. 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.

The 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 greatly.

The 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.

The 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.

I 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 Warehouse.

Gordon 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.

Both the original corporate by-laws and the amended version by Bruce Gaynes in 1995 are provided.

First ACTCo web / home page with e-commerce component.

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Bank 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.

IBP / 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The two above invoices represent the annual large purchase order from Office Depot and other sources to capitalize on back to school needs each year.

MY 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.

We 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.

Remember that these figures are reported in 1995 – 2003 dollars which are not adjusted for inflation since then.

This 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 greatly.

The 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 weakness.

International 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.

The IBP / ACTCo paid for the $232 purchase from OYE through a Bank of America wire transfer – represents direct involvement in international trade.

The 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.

Beate 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 school program.

IBP / ACTCo student evaluation concepts / applications:

The 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.

An 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 the partnership.

North Atlanta / Montego Bay delegations visited Heidelberg, German as guests of Ludwig Erhardt Schule – pictured at farewell party.

Neither 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.

Maureen 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.

I 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 to me.

Last IBP / www.actco.org web site and home page: