Preparing, Strengthening the Future’s Professionals

Jun 14, 2024

Contributed by Rachel Sankey | Staff Writer, The Business News

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Jackson Albee and Sadie Steinbach, two Wausau West DECA members, recently found themselves in the spotlight – taking home first place in the School-Based Enterprise (SBE) category at DECA ICDC in Anaheim, California.

It’s a win that now-senior Sadie Steinbach said validated all the hard work she and recent Wausau West graduate Jackson Albee had put in over the 2023-24 school year. Albee and Steinbach won first place for their manual and presentation on West-Side Connection – the school store, which the two co-manage at Wausau West High School.

Preparing for Competition

An important aspect of DECA, Steinbach said, is the competitions students participate in. Before a chapter can compete, it must be gold-certified, which involves submitting a 25-page manual on selected topics. This year, the topics were product service management, selling and finance.

Steinbach said she, Albee and Bennet Matteson (who also helps manage West-Side Connection) divided and conquered the manual starting in June of last year. The group said they submitted their manual in January, were gold-certified in February and began working on their presentation. Steinbach said the judges chose one of the three topics from the manual for students to present on product service management.

“Jackson and I then got to work on creating our slides (for the presentation),” she said. “We talked about our vendors, our merchandise assortment, our stock turnover, reduction, retail and we created slides about our store in general.”

From there, the duo said they competed at the state level, made it to finals, came in first and then went back to perfecting their presentation for internationals. And, in Anaheim, she said the competition process played out the same: present, make it to finals and come in first for SBE out of more than 300 different groups. A feat, Hert said he has never seen in his 25 years of teaching.

The Stars Aligned

Steinbach said all the hard work she and Albee put into their manual and presentation was worth it when they heard their names announced on stage.

“Jackson and I put in hours of work – we were there almost every morning before school for months working on and perfecting our presentation,” she said. “(We were) working on how we were interacting with each other – just all the small details. Seeing the fruits of our labor felt great.”

The win, Steinbach said, was a big deal to her and Albee, as well as their entire team. To have all 16 students in their chapter at the final ceremony, which was two hours long, Steinbach said, “was an amazing feeling that we had everyone supporting us and standing behind us.”

“And then when we were up there and we got first… our whole chapter started screaming, and everyone rushed the stage and hugged us,” she said. “They got silly string and sparkling cider, and we were all celebrating. It was truly the best feeling to win, not only for me and Jackson, but for our team… there was no better feeling in my opinion.”

Hert said the “stars aligned” for Albee and Steinbach’s win. “They have an amazing dynamic between them… they’re total opposites,” he said. “They feed off each other.” Steinbach said she and Albee are neighbors and have grown up together, which allowed them to read each other’s emotions and balance one another out while competing.

In addition to the natural dynamic, Hert said putting in the extra effort and honing in on every aspect of the presentation was crucial to Albee and Steinbach’s win. Hert said tweaking their presentation for internationals and taking the critiques they received at the state competition also helped them seal the deal. He said that when students come in first at state, they don’t feel the need to change anything with their presentation or continue to practice.

“It was the exact opposite with Jackson and Sadie,” he said. “They took the judges’ comments and they changed their presentation to what the judges wanted to see.”

For example, when Albee and Steinbach were presenting, Hert said they mentioned how they overcame running out of the disposable cups they use for their slushies – and were in a situation where they didn’t have time to go get more from a store. The managers created their own buzzword – BYO12C (or, bring your own 12-ounce cup) – and posted it to their Instagram, letting their followers know if they brought their own cup, they would get a discount on their slushie.

“It was a huge success,” Hert said. “The judge liked it and said, ‘why don’t you talk about sustainability?’ They redid their presentation to fit what the judge wanted.” Coming in first place, Hert said, “validated everything we do every day. They 100% deserve it – it was such a big win for our chapter and our school, too."

A Bright Future Ahead

With the 2023-24 school year complete, Hert said both students have bright futures ahead of them. Albee is heading to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the fall to study marketing. Steinbach will be entering her senior year as a Warrior. She said it was great for her and Albee to watch West-Side Connection “go out with a bang,” as the store will be moving to a larger location within the school and rebranding.

To learn more about DECA’s Wausau West chapter, visit its Instagram page at @wwdeca.


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