DECA Businesses Earn Gold Re-Certification


Chatham Charter DECA recently achieved Gold Re-Certification for its two school-based enterprises the organization runs: Castle Café, a coffee and smoothie shop, and Castle Creations, a retail apparel business. These were among 728 school-based enterprises achieving gold-level certification for the 2023-2024 school year and were recognized during DECA’s International Career Development Conference this past April in Anaheim, California. Chatham Charter was one of only two NC schools to achieve this level, and the only NC school to achieve Gold Re-Certification in two school-based enterprises (SBE).

A school-based enterprise (SBE) is an entrepreneurial operation in a school setting that provides goods and services to meet the needs of the market. SBEs are managed and operated by students as hands-on learning laboratories that integrate National Curriculum Standards in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. DECA advisors have utilized this effective educational tool for over four decades to provide their students with realistic and practical learning experiences that reinforce classroom instruction, enhance 21st century skill development, and prepare students for college and careers. The Chatham Charter DECA members who contributed to the re-certification efforts this year were Garrison Clark, Natalie Hamel, Ariana Rivera Romo, Elphie Spillman, John Whistle Spillman, and Tori Vaughn with the assistance of their DECA chapter advisors, Ashley Wood and Larisa Spillman.

This marks the fourth year that Chatham Charter has had a Gold Certified SBE. The Retail Operations SBE was originally certified in 2020-2021 by alumni Gracie Agnew and Clay Griffin and was borne out of the creativity of Agnew and Griffin, who were interested in adding new opportunities for Chatham Charter DECA members, as well as necessity, with COVID pushing all DECA activities from in-person to virtual. Their effort focused on the online sale of items like chapter t-shirts, dues and fees, as well as face masks and water bottles. While they achieved Gold Certification, they never got the opportunity to present their effort at DECA’s International Career Development Conference, which was held virtually their senior year. Today that SBE has grown to include a commercial heat press and has evolved into Castle Creations, a print-on-demand apparel business.

Castle Cafe was originally certified in the 2022-2023 school year, and began as a casual conversation between DECA advisors Ashley Wood and Larisa Spillman. When a few marketing students learned about the idea, they started asking questions. The Sports & Entertainment Marketing class that year adopted it as a class project and used all the functions of marketing taught in class, including surveying the target market to get input and ideas, developing the name and logo, sourcing and budgeting supplies and ingredients, developing recipes and pricing and finally making a pitch to administration, which resulted in getting approval to open. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with rave reviews. Circumstances required staff to pivot and retool Castle Cafe into a pop-up store model, opening for special events and for occasional sales to staff and parents.

“DECA’s School-based Enterprise Certification Program is a rigorous process designed to help DECA members demonstrate their classroom learning in a practical, learning laboratory, and then translate that into meaningful outcomes,” said Christopher Young, CAE, Chief Program Officer at DECA Inc. “These DECA members are practicing important workplace readiness skills while preparing for college and careers.”

DECA’s School-based Enterprise Certification Program provides recognition for outstanding achievement by school-based enterprises and motivates SBEs to strive for excellence and growth. SBEs can be certified at three levels: bronze, silver or gold. In order to apply for the certification, SBEs must submit extensive documentation that explains how the SBE demonstrates the practice of various marketing and retail standards. A review committee evaluates the documentation to determine which level of certification has been achieved. DECA’s School-based Enterprise program is sponsored by Otis Spunkmeyer Inc. and Pop Chips/You Need This.