Student run business earns prestigious accolade

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

CrenShop, the thriving student-operated printing and engraving business based at Crenshaw County Schools Career Academy, recently received prestigious DECA Gold Certification, reaching a goal that requires school-based enterprises (SBE) to pursue and maintain excellence and growth. Gold Certified Certification is the highest accolade DECA awards to a School Based Enterprise (SBE) and this distinction qualifies students for the National DECA Competition in Anaheim, California that will be held April 27-30.

AJ Kilpatrick, a student worker at CrenShop, expressed the value of hands-on learning.

“I feel like I’m learning more because I’m doing things hands-on instead of just listening to a lecture,” Kilpatrick said. “I know I’ll carry the information further with me than if I just have someone telling me what to do.”

The agency’s SBE program is an entrepreneurial operation in a school setting that provides goods and services to meet the needs of the market. Crenshop offers a wide variety of printing & engraving services

The student-run business can create brochures, portfolios, custom messaging on items like coasters, pens, keychains, picture frames and more.

Under the leadership of business teacher Cody Nichols, recognition of the Crenshaw County DECA chapter and CrenShop is attributed to the students’ meticulous documentation and innovative practices, as outlined in a comprehensive 27-page student-written paper prepared over two months that covers all aspects of the business, including financial, operational, and promotional activities.

Nichols stressed the importance of hands-on learning, like experienced via CrenShop, in equipping the students to tackle real-world challenges they may face in their future pursuits.

“Our goal is to expose students to the real world of business through hands-on experience in real-world situations,” Nichols said. “Students are involved in all parts of the printing process from design and production to pricing and invoicing. Though many of our students may not pursue this as a future career, the skills that they gain will be invaluable to them moving forward.”

Recognition Is provided for outstanding achievement at three different levels bronze, silver and gold. CrenShop, operating since the spring semester of 2021, is one of only four Gold Certified SBEs in Alabama.

According to Crenshaw County Superintendent of Education Dodd Hawthorne, DECA’s School-based CrenShop is well deserving, serving as a real-world test for students.

“It’s all about taking what they learn in the classroom and applying it in a hands-on way to get actual results,” Hawthorne said. “Through this program and CrenShop, students cultivate crucial workplace readiness skills as they simultaneously gear up for the challenges of higher education and future careers.”

Formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, DECA is a nonprofit international student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. For more information visit