PASCO -- The young girl sidled up to Robby Burns and shyly asked him what to wear in their company meeting the next day.
"Just dress like you would for Thanksgiving," the Pasco farmer said.
She nodded and re-joined the crowd of hundreds of students making their way into the arena at TRAC in Pasco.
Dressing appropriately is just one of the many professional skills Pasco seniors are learning this week.
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Enterprise Week, an annual event put on by the school district, groups students into mock companies. During five days, the temporary managers develop business plans, market products and scour quarterly earnings reports.
The teenage entrepreneurs will present the fruits of their labor to about 200 business people, who judge their efforts and crown a winning company Friday.
There are 44 companies this year, each made up of about 14 students, said Debbie Thurston, a Pasco teacher who started the event 11 years ago.
Each team starts out with the same scenario and the same tools: Take over an ailing DVD player manufacturer and restore the business to health using a box of pens and paper, and one computer.
Students are teamed up with an adviser from the real-life world of business.
The event has run long enough to produce its first adviser this year who is an Enterprise Week alumni. Robby Burns graduated from Pasco High in 2002 and went on to get a bachelor's degree in marketing.
He now farms potatoes and corn in Pasco -- when he's not advising the management team in cubicle number 38.
"I really enjoyed Enterprise Week back then," the 27-year-old businessman said. "And it's come a long way."
Students now build websites for their mock products using WordPress software, he said. The business simulations have become more sophisticated too.
To start the week, Burns walked the students through their company's balance sheets, showing them how different investment strategies could produce different outcomes.
"I explained the consequences, but they've made all the decisions," he said.
The students submit plans on how much to spend on advertising and research, for example, and how many units to produce. Their numbers are plugged into computer models for quarterly earnings by volunteer staff. Students then check the bottom line and adjust accordingly.
"It's great that they deal with financial numbers," Burns said. "They're learning how a market works."
Aside from righting the mock company, the students also create one wholly new product that's not a DVD player.
Burns' students came up with a plan for a solar-powered laptop.
"We wanted to make something that was eco-friendly and that people would want," said Billye Braswell, a senior at Chiawana High School. "This is a good learning experience. I know a lot more about business now."