Virtual Enterprise programs give local students a glimpse at building a business from the ground up

If you’re a student at Southold High School, it’s hard not to notice the well dressed group of seniors that walk the halls in their business attire.

In fact, that’s part of what drew Jay Tramontana to take the school’s Virtual Enterprise course.

“I used to see all the other VE people just walking around all dressed up and looking fancy and I was like, ‘Oh I want to be like them,’” Jay said. “So, [I decided] ‘I’ll be like them now.’”

Southold High School’s participating VE students start their senior year creating a company from the ground up, working in groups to form a corporate structure complete with business plans, executive officers and management. Students meet and agree on the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team, from the chief executive officer and chief financial officer to product, marketing and event managers.

The rigorous course isn’t for everyone according to the program’s director and English teacher Jessica Ellwood.

“In Southold, it’s only open to seniors,” Ellwood said. “They have to apply in the spring of their junior year, and they have to pass an interview round with the other two teachers that I work with…so they really have to want it.”

High schools across the country offer virtual enterprise classes that compete locally and regionally and culminate in the spring with a national competition. The Suffolk Times reported last April that the Southold VE class of 11 students was honored with first place for their marketing plan and ranked eighth in the nation for their business plan. It was also a national qualifier for their finance and human resources departments; qualifying the team for competition with with other schools around the country,at the nationwide Youth Business Summit in New York City, marking the first year in the school’s history that the team made it to nationals.

Another thing that is special about this program aside from the awesome kids and awesome administrative support is that it’s really integrated into the community.

Jessica Ellwood

This year’s VE class company is named Clime. According to the company’s website,, it exists to solve the problem of “unappetizing and potentially unsafe food temperatures.”

Each year a VE class partners with a local business to create a product or service. Thanks to a production partnership with Southold’s DJK Heating & Cooling, they are producing several products to maintain proper temperature for food. One such product is the Thermabowl. The stainless-steel battery-powered bowl keeps food at a desired temperature. According to Clime’s newsletter, the bowl is dishwasher safe and has an outer silicone coating which is offered in five colors, blue, red, green, white and purple.

The bowl is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. Clime produces the bowl’s charging pad, which transfers the energy from the charger to the receiver through electromagnetic induction. The company also offers the thermabox, a lunchbox that works in the same way as the thermabowl and a thermatray, which regulates the temperature of food placed on top of it.

Jay, Clime’s design and marketing coordinator, is just one of the students who believes that although the class is painstaking work, it’s rewarding. Many of his peers said the life lessons from this class are worth all the effort. 

Wyatt Carter, Clime’s CEO, said the course was life changing.

“It taught me how to better format my life and work harder,” he said.

“It’s real-life skills that you learn in VE and that’s what I really enjoy about it,” said senior Jeniffer Campos, the chief product officer and sales officer.

Southold’s VE director Jessica Ellwood acknowledges the rigorous course “isn’t for everyone,” but it is a great resource for entrepreneurial students. (Credit: Tara Smith)

Neighboring districts like Mattituck and Riverhead also offer the virtual enterprise course for their students. Riverhead’s VE class accepts students from 11-12 grade, according to their course offering booklet. They experienced their first in-person trade show, where students showcase their mini business and product, in early January. Last November, Mattituck’s VE class also comprised of juniors and seniors won for their IT department and their finance department at the Long Island University leadership conference.

The community and local businesses are vital to the success of the program, according to Ellwood, as each year they support the company created by the VE class as “angel investors,” which provide both virtual and real money to students. Ellwood mentioned that this year, the class took a field trip to Southold’s downtown where students would walk with flyers and showcase their business. 

“Another thing that is special about this program, aside from the awesome kids and awesome administrative support is that it’s really integrated into the community,” she said. “Southold is a special place.”