The Mined Team presents during the second round of the Calif. Business Plan Competition. (Image courtesy of MinedTeam)
Fountain Valley High School

Virtual Enterprise’s MINED team makes strides in an online setting

In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic threatening human and planetary health, students in Fountain Valley High School’s Virtual Enterprise class have developed a denim apparel company using recycled material.

MINED is a continuation of the recent surge of environmentally — conscious company models in VE over the past couple of years.

With a large influx of sustainable companies to draw inspiration from, the team translated this mission into an apparel company, a subsection that has gone unrepresented in business models so far. They strive to create a unique, sustainable approach to the reduction of plastic waste plaguing the planet.

“MINED is actually ‘denim’ spelled backward because we’re here to flip the industry,” Chief Executive Officer senior Natalie Papazian said. “We’re basically focused on creating clothing out of recycled plastic water bottles [and] … currently offer bucket hats, jeans, and face masks made out of our material.”

The MINED team has gone on to achieve great success for their efforts. So far, the team has been nationally awarded Top 15 Sales Pitch, Top 15 Sales Materials, Top 10 User Experience, the Silver Banner Ad, Notable VE Top 20 and Top 10 firms, in which they placed first in the West Coast division and fourth overall.

They’ve also placed second in Gold Email Marketing and Gold Video Commercial. Recently, the team was Top 10 in Sales Pitch, Sales Materials and Overall Experience in the Jan. 22 Western Region Winter Tradeshow.

However, the road to such success, especially when launching and operating a business model among COVID-19 restrictions and a largely digital environment, hasn’t been easy.

“We definitely had a bunch of hiccups along the way,” Director of Operations senior Rosy Mondragon said. “It really did [take] a lot of time to try to figure who could make [our photoshoot] and under what circumstances. We were able to do that and came up with amazing photos for our company, which was really great.”

MINED has faced struggles with communication in the quarantined, online environment. The loss of personal connection has been a limiting factor that has created a learning curve in terms of teamwork and cooperation. However, the MINED team has managed to overcome this disadvantage and accomplish great things in a digital setting.

Seniors Natalie Papazian, Rosy Mondragon, Ivy Phan and Minh Phan along with junior Laura Sabate meet in a practice session for the Business Plan Competition. Photo courtesy of MINED.

How the team competes has also been subject to change. The VE teams usually attend their trade shows and various other competitions in convention-like settings with hundreds of other VE companies representing their schools. The competitions have been a place to meet other VE cohorts and the judges, something that provided valuable interactions in the VE program.

This competition model has become understandably obsolete in the era of social distancing and limited gatherings and replaced with a bevy of connection issues. While the occasional technology complication is an expected problem, the loss of one-to-one connection has also been a detriment especially to their trade fair competitions where they have to sell their products to customers.

Yet, the MINED team has managed to persevere through the challenges that the new, completely digital competition setting has poised, making great sales in their trade fairs and meeting many others from the world of VE.

The MINED team presents at the Design for Delight Competition to judges. Photo courtesy of MINED.

Papazian and last year’s VE team were a part of the pilot program for digital competitions when COVID-19 initially hit the United States in March 2020. The usage of live presentations last year has become the basis of this year’s competition model. The firsthand experience has helped the MINED team to better prepare for competitions.

As of right now, the team is looking forward to the launch of their spring collection in March with new products and another photoshoot and continuing their string of accomplishments.

“We do have more awards ceremonies coming up and that means there are more competitions coming up and more chances to win. That’s really exciting and I think we’ll do really well,” Papazian said.

You can find and keep up with MINED on their website or on Instagram and Twitter @FVHSVE.