Virtual Enterprise builds camaraderie at charity run, chooses new path for company


CEO Will Gross (left) work with fellow seniors Matt Stubblefield, Brandon Jacoby, and Justin Ketterl at the Forget Me Not 5k this weekend.

Emily Simmons, News Editor

Bearden’s Virtual Enterprise class participated in the Forget Me Not 5k run last weekend to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research.

They originally signed up to participate because they planned for this year’s company to focus on that charity, but they have since shifted to focus on expanding high speed internet in rural areas.

The Virtual Enterprise class is comprised of students who have applied for job positions in a simulated virtual company, which is called Elysium. In the class, students make business plans and partner with real-world companies for real causes.

This year, the class wanted create a new type of company, a benefit corporation or B Corporation, for short.

“B Corporations, which are businesses that have more of a social cause associated with them, have been really successful in terms of the National Business Plan Competition,” Virtual Enterprise teacher Ms. Kathy McCoy said.

Originally, the class planned to do Forget Me Not Toys which partners with Alzheimer’s research and the Pat Summitt Foundation. The students still participated in the successful 5k run because they had already committed to the event, but they have changed the focus for their business model.

“We really felt that even though we changed directions with the company, that it was important to go (to the event) for the community and to represent Bearden and Virtual Enterprise,” senior and Elysium CEO Will Gross said. “It became more of a team building activity.”  

Added senior and chief operations officer Luis Sanchez: “The main thing was, our company was going to be about like toys and mental health, but we kind of found out that really wasn’t a profit making company, so we felt it was better to change concepts.”

Elysium’s new business plan is to become a high tech company with an end goal of expanding internet connection to those in rural areas.

“The thing that really got me going about this cause is that I live in Halls, and the internet there is [limited]; there are only two service providers, Comcast and TDS (Telecom), which are not that great,” Sanchez said. “So I started doing research on rural communities and their limited internet access.”

All of that research led to Sanchez finding out how companies such as Microsoft are actively  trying to close the gap and improve that lack of internet connectivity in rural areas throughout  the country.

“We want to raise awareness that people in rural communities are really limited in their options for internet access; we want everyone in the country and the state to have that access,” Gross said.

Currently, Elysium is looking for real-world business partners who are willing to invest in expanding internet connection to those who live in rural areas.

“People think that everyone has internet access but it’s actually only around 55 percent of people in rural areas have any access at all, and the rest do not,” Sanchez said.