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Parker Benson, Local High-schooler, Takes on ENTREP 420

Parker Benson has always known he wanted to go into some aspect of business and entrepreneurship caught his eye at an early age. At his high school in San Jose, California, through Advanced Business Honors he studied Entrepreneurship–Ideas in Action and Disciplined Entrepreneurship (an MIT course) curricula.

“My previous school, Valley Christian, at the time provided one of the best educations in the nation,” said Parker. “We had mentors who are CEOs and upper managers of major Silicon Valley companies including Facebook (my friend’s dad) and Yoshi. We had a lot of resources.”

Parker Benson at right
Parker and his teammates at the President’s Business Challenge dinner. From left: Johnathan Xia, Tyler Brockway, Gautam Rajan, team mentor John Celli (retired president/COO of Space Systems Loral), and Parker Benson.

The capstone project in Parker’s business honors class was the President’s Business Challenge where student teams identify a startup business idea and take it from inception to the end. Final presentations were given in front of Valley Christian’s president and presentations were adjudicated by accredited Silicon Valley investors who determined teams’ placement in the challenge. Parker was acting COO for his team, and he created the foundational model that helped to successfully calculate the revenue stream for the team’s 5-year pro-forma income statement. John Celli, retired COO and president of Space Systems Loral, was Parker’s group mentor for the challenge.

“John Celli was a critical component to my success in the President’s Business Challenge. He is my role model,” said Parker.

During his junior year of high school, his family moved to Eagle, Idaho. As he looked through the class offerings of all the high schools in the area, he found that none had an entrepreneur class that would challenge him. Parker already had experience in problem/solution formation, go-to-market strategy, competitive analysis, income statements and prototyping. So, he started to look at college offerings. He said that Boise State University had the best courses and after reading class descriptions, he set his sites on ENTREP 420 and emailed Dr. Kent Neupert, chair of the Department of Management to see if taking the class was possible.

“A 400-level class — kind of crazy, I know,” said Parker, “but Dr. Neupert got back to me and asked questions. I sent him information on my entrepreneurial experience and he said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ With his help, I got into the class. I was so excited.”

Parker took the course in spring 2021 and did well. His teammates gave him high marks in their team assessments and he accumulated a total of 1863 points — 300 more than needed for an A in the course.

sister Marissa Parker and dog Jake
Parker with his sister Marissa and 17-year-old dog Jake.

In addition to the classroom work, Parker took part in the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, and through a connection made in class, he interned at Joule Case.

“He’s not a quitter and he has grit,” said Parker’s teacher, Sabrina Lin (Valley Christian). “It’s very clear that Parker possesses a deep passion for business.”

During his senior year at Cole Valley Christian, Parker says he will use what he has learned so far to do some groundwork on a start-up, try to get funding and get experiences you can’t get in a classroom. And, of course, going to college is in his future. He likes the idea of places like MIT or Wharton.

“Those schools have such an intellectual, high level. It really appeals to me to be in a high-performing environment. And, I have actually considered Boise State as well. While taking the course, I thought wow, this is pretty cool. I appreciate Boise State so much more now.”