GRANDVILLE, Mich. — There are so many ways for high school students to get involved at school, from sports to student council and everything in between.
It's no different, even during homecoming week at Grandville High School, where business students are showing some spirit while getting some hands-on experience.
The Dog Den at Grandville High School is more than just the place Bulldogs fans can come to get their favorite gear. For students like Braden Hostetler and Mia Vanbragt, it's a chance for them to learn what it takes to run a business.
They work in the store.
"I learned a lot more about just designing in general, learning a lot more about the merchandise itself," said Vanbragt, a senior. "And I learned how to work with people and be more creative in general."
"You learn entrepreneurship, you learn how to sell, you learn how to market, and all these skills are employable skills," said Hostetler, a junior.
Both students are getting their feet wet in the retail world, like so many others at Grandville since the Dog Den first opened back in 2015.
Business instructor John Schwalm says the booster parents were heavily involved in getting the store established. "They helped train our people," he said. "It became an incredible success. We moved it into academics, and now the store is tightly tied with all of our classes: our accounting classes, our merchandising classes, the management, marketing."
It's been so successful that students aren't guaranteed a spot to work in the store.
"We would have so many students that wanted to get involved that we had to have an elimination process," Schwalm said. "There didn't necessarily have to be grades, but they had to want to meet people, be able to smile, know how to do a proper approach. We hammer into them the seven steps of the sales process, so that our goal is that they can sell anything anywhere and have a presence that when they do a job interview long after this is all done, they'll do a terrific job."
Leesa Burrill is the Dog Den supervisor. She says watching the students gain valuable work experience is one of the highlights of her job.
"At first, when they first come in, they're very nervous," Burrill said. Some do not know how to run a cash register. Others do not know how to design.
Burrill says she throws everything in the middle of the store at the beginning of the school year and has the students design it by picking a color scheme, making everything match.
"So it is really cool to see them by the end of the year, be able to break down a wall, move stuff around and make the store look really good."
For Mia and Braden, they plan to take their experiences beyond the walls of the Dog Den.
"I want to be an ultrasound technician, so it's not business-related," Vanbragt said. "But this is teaching me a lot of skills that'll still help me in my career with working with people every day."
"I'm personally looking to go into real estate," Hostetler said. "I think helping people buy homes and make one of the biggest decisions in their lives, I'm really interested in that."
If you're wondering how successful the Dog Den has been, they did $85,000 in sales their first two years.
Their goal is to hit between $150,000 to $200,000 every year and ultimately become self-sufficient, which means getting no help from the district or the community.